All posts by Bop Design

Guest Post by WebHostRanking.com: How to Create a Website Using Shared Hosting Tools

hosting-toolsA lot of people are afraid to use custom website designers because of the word “custom” and instantly think exorbitant prices. This isn’t necessarily true. However, there are some people that can get what they need by using the website designing tools that their shared hosting providers offer instead of using a custom web designer. It is important to realize that the tools you get from your web hosting provider are only good for basic websites. Most business owners require more complex tools that a only a web design firm can offer you. This is particularly true when you are looking for a 2nd or 3rd generation website! Custom website designs are a great way to make your business stand out from the competition. The tools shared web hosts offer should only be used in the beginning stages of a business.

Shared web hosting plans offer a number of free tools to help you design your own website. Several of these web hosting tools also give you the option to choose from more than one similar tools. These tools allow you to create, design, and manage every aspect of your website in an easy reliable way. In this article we will review several web hosting tools and discuss how they can help you design a basic website.

Control Panels – Some web hosting providers choose to create their own control panels while others offer open source control panels, such as the popular cPanel. Nearly all control panels will have left hand list type navigation, with icon based navigation on the right. From your control panel you may set up and manage your preferences, files, mail, logs, security, domains, databases, software, and much more.

 

 

One-Click Installers – Shared hosting plans typically include one or two one-click installers which allow the user to quickly and easily install scripts that will add features to their website. Two of the most popular one-click installers include SimpleScripts and Fantastico, each of them offering more than 50+ scripts to choose from. With these installers you will be able to choose a CMS, eCommerce features, website builder, website templates, and more; you can also add a blog, forum, photo gallery, guestbook, and more. BlueHost is one of the companies that offers SimpleScripts and is a great web hosting provider. Using a BlueHost coupon can save you a ton of money without sacrificing anything.

Content Management Systems (CMS) – The script installer typically includes several open source CMSs including (but not limited to) Joomla, Drupal, Mambo, Xoops, PHP-Nuke, and more. From the CMS it is easy to publish, edit, and modify content, as well as maintain your site—all from one central page.

 

 

 

Website Builders – While some web hosts, such as GoDaddy, have created and even trademarked their own website builders; most shared web hosting providers offer open source website builders like liveSite, Soholaunch, BasicPages, or Concrete5.

 

 

 

eCommerce – Anytime you build a business website designed to sell products or services there are a number of tools you may need to help you carry out your transactions. Most importantly you will need a way to accept credit cards online. Shared hosts often offer iPayment as a solution for this. IPayment or other payment solutions can be found within your script installer. You will also find a number of online shopping cart options. Some of the most popular open source shopping carts includes Magento, CubeCart, Zen Cart, AgoraCart, TomatoCart and more. Because not all shopping carts are equal, and your shopping cart needs may be unique, it is suggested that you do some research before installing a shopping cart. It can be quite challenging to switch shopping carts if you choose a shopping cart that does not suit your needs.

Help Center – By installing some of the ‘Help Center’ software you can offer your visitors a customer support center to answer their questions, and help resolve problems. Help centers provide you with the ability to have an open ticket system or a live help center.

Client Management – For websites needing software to keep track of their clients, invoices, accounting, or invoicing. Common client management installations include QuickBooks, Front Accounting, Simple Invoices, and more.

Backups – Backing up your files, or even your entire website is a good idea regardless of how you do it. When choosing a backup program from your script installer your files will typically be backed up and stored using cloud storage, which means your information is not stored on a specific server, but instead on an Internet storage system (which is available from anywhere, anytime).

Blogs – Some people use a blog as their main website, while others attach a blog to their website. Blogs are a great way to continually create new content for your website, which will help get your website recognized by the search engines. Installing a blog from your script installer can be done in just a few quick easy steps. Most installers include blog software’s like b2evolution, Geeklog, WordPress, and more. Keep in mind, some of the blogging software may also be used as a CMS. If you don’t find the CMS you’re looking for under the ‘Content Management Systems’ list check to see if it may be listed under blogs instead.

Forums, Forms, and Surveys, Guestbooks – If you are building a website where you want customer interaction you may want to use some of the forum, forms, or survey software. Some of the more popular software’s include LimeSurvey, GBooks, AdvancedPoll, vBulletin Forums, phpBB, and Vanilla Forums.

 

 

 

RSS – If you plan to continually feed your website or blog with new updated information, or have visitors or customers that will want to know every time you update new information on your site then you should consider adding an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) to your site. An RSS feed can include full or summarized text as well as publishing dates and authorship. The fact that you have an RSS feed that people can join is usually indicated by the RSS logo (indicated above).

Security – While most shared web hosting providers include a shared SSL certificate in your hosting package, if you are going to have a website that accepts and shares information that needs to be encrypted (such as credit cards or legal documents) then you will want to purchase your own SSL certificate either through a SSL provider or your web host. Within most script installers you may also be able to download additional security with programs like SiteLock. It’s important to remember, however, that SiteLock is not a substitute for SSL security.

Statistics – Most web hosting control panels have a number of solutions in place to help you track statistics. Your installer may also have software such as Piwik to assist with your website statistics.

 

Utilities – Adding WebCalendars, visitor counters, or a FAQ section to your website can be done through any of the ‘Utilities’ software such as phpMyFAQ, WebCalendar, or GCount.

Webmail and Mailing Lists – Webmail is web-based email as opposed to an email program you download directly onto one computer. Webmail allows you to check your mail from any location any time. While there are a number of free Webmail services available through providers such as Gmail, Hotmail, AOL Mail, etc…Web hosts also include free webmail programs through your script installer (ex. BigSenders or Roundcube).

Photo Galleries – Pictures speak louder than words. Effective use of photos can lead to more conversions in your online store. Images are also beneficial to draw in and keep your audience’s attention. When images are optimized they may also benefit your search engine optimization. Shared web hosting plans often include photo galleries such as Coppermine, Zenphoto, Pixelpost, and more.

Project Management – Planning, running, and managing projects is incredibly easier when using project management software. Script installation programs usually include 2 or 3 project management programs to choose from such as BaseCamp, Mantis, or PHProjekt.

 

Wiki – If you would like a website where your users can add or edit content you may want to add a ‘wiki’, some of the more popular Wiki’s included in web hosting packages include Mediawiki, Wikkawiki, Dokuwiki, and others.

Features and tools offered by shared web hosting providers may vary from one to another. Before signing up for a web hosting package make sure your web hosting provider has the tools you are looking for, then make the best use of all the features and tools your host has to offer. And remember, when it is time to turn your basic website into a custom, lead-generating website, make sure you contact Bop Design!


New Client Website Design: FPMG

06.06.2012FPMG Website ScreenshotFPMG, otherwise know as Federer Performance Management Group, is a firm dedicated helping successful people become their best. FPMG offers custom performance coaching solutions for firms seeking to move to the next level. The programs combine a strong foundation in behavioral psychology with a focus on the bottom line.

FPMG came to Bop Design in need of a new website design to enhance the brand. Not only did the old website design no longer demonstrate professionalism, but the content was also in need of a refresh. The old domain, FPMG.info, was also a source of confusion, due to its unusual domain extension.

Bop created a clean, up-to-date website design. Dr. Denise P. Federer, the firm’s principal, is a highly credentialed performance coach, and the new website highlights her qualifications. The Resources section features both articles written by Dr. Federer for third-party publications and audio files of her interviews. The website was designed with FPMG’s primary target markets—financial companies and family-owned or closely-held businesses—in mind. Everything, from the website content to the photos, is meant to appeal to these two market segments.


New Client Website Design: iNPD

05.15.2012iNPD Center is a consulting firm that helps technology companies create repeatable processes for launching successful new products. The iNPD team guides companies away from building “me too” products. Instead, iNPD shows its clients how to understand their target markets and create valuable solutions for that market.

iNPD came to Bop Design in need of a new website to attract and retain ideal clients. The goal was to first enhance iNPD’s image of expertise. Equally important to the design, however, was the content. Since iNPD Center website is meant to be a valuable information resource for prospective clients, the content needed to be presented in an easily-digestible manner. The website design also needed to be SEO-friendly to increase iNPD’s online visibility.

Bop created a unique, professional website design that communicates iNPD’s high tech expertise. Because the website is content-heavy, the design was created to handle a large amount of text on each page. The new iNPD website serves as a solid foundation for the firm’s expanding marketing efforts.


Bop Design Identifies the Top 8 Firefox Add-ons for Web Development

05.04.2012San Diego, CA (PRWEB) May 03, 2012

A web developer can never have enough tools to help make web development faster and more efficient. Mozilla’s Firefox web browser has a feature called add-ons (similar to extensions or plugins), which add extra features to the browser. Bop Design, a San Diego web design agency with offices also in New Jersey, has selected the top 8 Firefox add-ons to help web developers streamline the web development process.
Firefox 11 already has very impressive tools for web development. It includes (descriptions from mozilla.org):

Web Console – Lets you see logging messages from your JavaScript code, JavaScript and CSS errors and network activity. Search and filter to find just the events you need to look at. Plus, you can directly interact with and explore your page via JavaScript.

Page Inspector – Peek right into the styling of any Web page by visually selecting the page element that you’re interested in.

Scratchpad – Scratchpad lets you write JavaScript code that can interact directly with the contents of a Web page.

With these powerful tools already included,Bop Design’s Web Development Director, Jordan Paraso has selected the top 8 add-ons specifically used for web development.

  1. Web Developer 1.1.9 – (http://chrispederick.com/work/web-developer/) Also known as the Web Developer Toolbar (WDT), this add-on installs various web developer tools to the browser. It will allow you to quickly disable any JavaScript, CSS or image files on website. The toolbar also gives you easy access to any cookies, meta tag information, and forms on the web page you are viewing. Paraso adds, “One of my favorite features is the ability to auto fill forms for form testing. The ‘name’ of the form element will be used as the form value, so when testing a form with many fields, this feature will save you plenty of time. The truth is, the WDT has so many different features, I haven’t been able to use them all yet!”
  2. Firebug 1.9.1 – (http://getfirebug.com/) Firebug integrates with Firefox to put a wealth of development tools at your fingertips while you browse. You can edit, debug, and monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page. It’s like the built in Web Console and Page Inspecter but with more features. Paraso contends, “Some developers will debate on which is better, WDT or Firebug. From my experience, WDT is more suited for front end designers that do a lot of CSS coding and Firebug is better for JavaScript/AJAX debugging and development. I say use them both.”
  3. MeasureIt 0.4.10 – (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/measureit/) Draw a ruler across any webpage to check the width, height, or alignment of page elements in pixels. “This ruler is one of the handiest add-ons I’ve used.”
  4. Firesizer 1.7 – (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/firesizer/)
    Allows you to resize the window to specific dimensions. This add-on shows the dimensions of the current browser.
  5. HTML Validator 0.9.5.2 – (http://users.skynet.be/mgueury/mozilla/) Adds HTML Validation to the View Page Source of the browser. The add-on is based on Tidy and OpenSP, both algorithms that were originally developed by the Web Consortium W3C. The details of the errors are seen when looking the HTML source of the page. Paraso suggests, “If you care about your code being valid, then try this out. Although the WDT has a HTML validator feature, those validation results are shown to you from an external website, rather than being shown along with the page’s source code.”
  6. Rainbow 1.5.1 – (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/rainbow-color-tools/) This add-on has a color picker and eyedropper + saving colors. It allows you to try out colors with drag and drop. Want to know the hexadecimal notation (HEX) color of a particular blue that is in a jpeg image without needing an image editor (like Photoshop)? With Rainbow, it’s no problem.
  7. Lazarus: Form Recovery 2.3 – (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/lazarus-form-recovery/) Lazarus securely auto-saves all forms as you type, so after a crash, server timeout, or whatever, you can go back to the form and get the form data back. Paraso suggests, “If you have a lot of forms that need testing and would like to use actual form content, this add-on will make it a less tedious task.”
  8. FireFTP – (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/fireftp/?src=userprofile) FireFTP is a free, secure, cross-platform FTP/SFTP client for Mozilla Firefox which provides easy and intuitive access to FTP/SFTP servers. “If you are experienced with FileZilla, FireFTP will be familiar.”

Bop Design Releases a Guide on Writing Effective White Papers

04.27.2012aWhite papers can be an extremely effective marketing tool, especially for B2B service-oriented companies. White papers give a business marketer an opportunity to demonstrate thought leadership, educate their target audience and build trust, all without the perceived “sleaziness” of a sales pitch. However, taking the time to write a white paper or even coming up with a topic can often be an undertaking in itself. To help a small business get started, Bop Design, a San Diego-based marketing agency with clients through the U.S., has developed a step-by-step guide on writing an effective white paper, followed by a handy list of do’s and don’ts.

Steps for Creating an Effective White Paper

  1. Gain attention by choosing a topic that will resonate with your target audience.Kara Jensen, Creative Director at Bop Design adds, “It should either be a common issue your clients face, or a question you find yourself answering frequently.”
  2. Attract interest with a broad description of issues and trends in your industry. This is an excellent way to introduce your reader to the topic.
  3. Assess the issues and/or challenges the white paper will address. Give the reader a high-level overview of the issue you’re going to resolve.
  4. Summarize what the reader will learn by reading the white paper. Jensen states, “Make it clear what they will gain if they invest their valuable time.”
  5. Create desire by solving the problem. Describing the solution to your readers makes them want to carry out the solution—or hire you to carry it out.
  6. Support your solution with statistics, charts and graphs. “Numbers are more convincing than asking the reader to take your word for it.”
  7. Condense the key points into a brief summary toward the end. This makes for easier reading.
  8. Stimulate action with a compelling conclusion. Tell your readers the next step—the step they should take immediately after finishing the white paper.

White Paper Dos and Don’ts

  1. Do understand your audience. What are they interested in? What motivates their decisions? What challenges do they face? Jensen says, “If you work backwards from your audience, you’ll create a white paper that resonates with them.”
  2. Do break up your content. Try using numbers if appropriate. A list of top 10 tips will be easier for someone to scan—which means people are more likely to download it and read it.
  3. Do be explicit about what the reader will get out of the white paper. If readers know they’ll get A, B and C out of the white paper, they’re more likely to read on.
  4. Do put your contact information on every page. “Not every reader is going to get to the last page.”
  5. Do make the white paper look good. Jensen emphatically states, “A well-written but poorly designed white paper won’t capture your audience’s interest. Hire a designer if you don’t have the in-house ability to make it look professional and appealing.”
  6. Don’t use industry jargon, acronyms or complex explanations. Most readers lack your expert knowledge. That’s why they’re reading your white paper!
  7. Don’t write a user manual. It should be educational, not step-by-step instructions.
  8. Don’t make a sales pitch. You’ll lose your reader immediately.
  9. Don’t be too wordy. Make it easy to skim and easy to understand.

Bop Design suggests that white papers can be one of the most effective conversion tools on a firm’s website. Jensen says, “One of the primary objectives of a website is for it to serve as a lead generator. If a white paper contains compelling information, a website visitor will complete a form to access it. This generates a qualified lead for a firm’s sales team.”


Bop Design Creative Principal, Kara Jensen, Selected as 2012 “YWCA Tribute to Women & Industry” Honoree

04.11.2012Kara Jensen of Bop Design has been selected as a 2012 Tribute to Women & Industry (TWIN) honoree. Jensen is the Creative Principal at Bop Design, a San Diego based marketing agency focused on professional and business services firms. Jensen and Bop Design will be recognized at the 2012 YWCA “In the Company of Women” luncheon on Monday, April 16. Additionally, Jensen is being considered for the prestigious 2012 TWIN Mentor award. The San Diego YWCA will announce the recipient of this award during the luncheon.

“I am honored to be nominated and excited about the event!” exclaims Jensen. “As a leader of two women on the Bop Design creative team, I am flattered that they nominated me and hope to be a mentor to many more women throughout my career at Bop Design.”

The luncheon is being held in the Marina Ballroom of the Marriott Marquis & Marina, located at 333 West Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101. Registration will begin at 11:00 am and the luncheon will be held from 12:00 Noon – 1:30 p.m. Ashley Judd, acclaimed actor and dedicated humanitarian will be our inspirational keynote speaker. Proceeds from this event will support the YWCA’s programs and services for women and families who are survivors of domestic violence and homelessness.


Bop Design Provides 6 Tips for the Design of a Mobile Website for Small Business

Before the popularity of smartphones such as the iPhone or Android, it was still possible for a person to view the Internet on a phone. However, the experience was not ideal due to slower data transfer rates, poor browser software and the fact that most websites were not optimized for mobile device viewing. For a business to have a website mobile optimized a few years ago meant reducing images file sizes, using CSS based layouts instead of table-based layouts and not utilizing Flash. Basically doing anything to reduce the amount of data being downloaded. As technology and innovation have improved, smartphones have became more powerful, affordable and now are more common than regular cell phones. The touch-based nature of these phones create a different way to surf the web. “It’s the same as using a regular web browser on a desktop but yet it’s a bit different. The basic rules of mobile optimization are still the same except now there are new features to account for,” states Jordan Paraso, Web Development Director at Bop Design, a San Diego based website design agency. As businesses determine an online presence for the mobile platform, Bop Design provides businesses with 6 tips on designing a mobile website.
“The general consensus around the web is that having a mobile optimized website means you have a mobile version of your website. By default, a mobile version of a website is already a mobile optimized website. So what is a mobile version of a website? Basically, it’s an alternate version of a website that is optimized for use on smartphones or similar mobile devices,” states Paraso. Today’s mobile devices are mostly touch-based. Compared to desktop and notebook computers, they have small screens with limited screen resolution. “Have you ever been to a non-mobile optimized website on your smartphone and tried to click on a link but had a really hard time because the link is too small or too close to other links? I know I have. Having a mobile version of the website would solve this problem by using a different layout made specifically for mobile devices such as smartphones,” says Paraso. The following are 6 tips Bop Design suggests to businesses designing a website for mobile:

  1. Use CSS as much as possible instead of image files (e.g. gradient fills, drop shadows, rounded boxes, etc.) . “Using too many images will slow down the load time of the website. CSS data is a lot smaller in file size than image file data,” Paraso advises.
  2. Use a fluid layout. Not every smartphone or mobile device has the same screen resolution. “By keeping the layout fluid, the website can stretch and expand to fit as necessary.”
  3. Apply larger font sizes that are easy to see and read on the smaller screen.
  4. Graphical buttons instead of text links because they are easier to “touch”. “If a visitor can’t click on a text link, they will get frustrated and leave your site.”
  5. No Flash. Use HTML5 and/or Javascript/jQuery instead.
  6. Simpler navigation with fewer options. “Don’t overwhelm a visitor with too much on a small screen.”

Paraso summarizes the mobile design objective, “Generally when a person is going to view a website on their smartphone, they are looking for something specific. Perhaps an address, a phone number, a contact name, email address, etc. The slower download speeds and the smaller screen resolution make typical web browsing impractical. Having just the important content available and easily accessible on the mobile site can improve the quality of the user’s experience.” Bop Design reminds businesses that not every page and link has to be available on the mobile site. “Too much unnecessary content can defeat the purpose of having a mobile version of the website . Also keep in mind that not all users will want to view the mobile version of the website. Always include an option for them to view the regular non-mobile version of the site.”

As the mobile web continues to grow and gain more popularity, Bop Design reminds businesses that the need for a mobile website will soon enough be as necessary as a regular website. “I would not be surprised if mobile websites become the norm and regular non-mobile sites will be become the alternate viewing option.”


Bop Design Releases White Paper on Holistic Marketing Approach – Discussing Logo Design, Website Design, SEO, Social Media Marketing & Email Marketing

Bop Design, a San Diego website design and marketing agency, has released a white paper discussing the holistic approach every small business needs to adopt in order to generate and nurture more ideal customer leads. The white paper is titled “Marketing 101: Marketing for Maximum Success, What every Small Business Owner needs to know about building an online presence.” The agency created the white paper because there has been an influx of questions from the small business community regarding web marketing tactics and how they all work together to achieve results. Bop Design Business Principal, Jeremy Durant, comments, “We have been receiving numerous requests a day from prospective clients for website design or social media marketing or email marketing, but we always ask about the overall marketing objective. An integrated marketing strategy with each tactic complementing the other is needed for a firm’s plan to be successful.”

The white paper starts with foundational marketing components such as a firm’s ideal customer profile and unique value proposition. From there, they discuss the importance of logo and website design. Lastly, they touch upon marketing outreach tactics like social media marketing, email marketing and SEO. The white paper can be downloaded at https://www.bopdesign.com/resources/marketing-101-white-paper/.


Bop Design Answers the Top 10 Social Media and SEO Questions Posed by Small Businesses

02.17.2012Most small business owners understand that their firm needs a SEO and social media marketing strategy. However, there is still much confusion regarding the benefits of SEO and social media, and the best way for a small business to implement an effective plan. Bop Design, a San Diego based marketing agency focused on small businesses, has released a resource titled the “Top 10 Social Media & SEO Questions Answered.” The resource is designed for the small business owner who is cash strapped, time crunched but knows their firm needs an effective SEO and social media plan to increase brand awareness and generate ideal customer leads.

Bop Design Business Principal, Jeremy Durant, comments, “There is a tendency for small businesses to over-complicate their social media and SEO strategy. This causes a strategy to be disjointed, sporadic and undisciplined.” Durant says that a strategy all starts with content creation. “If a firm can generate two relevant, timely blog entries a month, this can be the start of an effective SEO and social media plan.” Durant contends that these blog entries can be re-purposed in regular social media communication and an SEO article distribution strategy. “Social media and SEO truly work hand in hand and where it all starts is content. Content establishes you as a thought leader on social media and creates keyword rich content for on and off page optimization.” Because SEO and social media can work together, Bop Design combined the two topics in one guide.

The Top 10 List includes common questions like: Can a SEO firm reasonably guarantee top ranking on Google? How can I test the effectiveness of my website? How do I determine what keywords my firm’s website should target? Click here to access the guide.


Bop Design Answers the Top 10 Business Website Design Questions

Everyday the San Diego website design firm, Bop Design, is asked many of the same questions about business website design. The Bop Design team has compiled a list of the 10 most asked questions about website design and created an answer guide. “We created the guide to equip business decision makers with a powerful resource as they shop around for the best website design firm for their particular needs. By far, the most common question is ‘What does a website cost?'” states Jeremy Durant, Bop Design Business Principal.

The website design and marketing firm addresses this question first. They compare the price of a website to the price of a car – the price is determined on the features a customer wants and what it needs to accomplish. In another answer, Bop Design essentially compiles a shopping guide – listing questions a business decision maker should pose to any website design firm. “The Bop Design team considers ourselves to be a small business advocacy group. Even if a business decides not to hire Bop, we want to empower them with educated questions so they select the right website design and marketing partner,” says Durant.
Some of the questions are more foundational, intended for the website design novice. Others are more technical such as “Why is WordPress an effective content management system?” Click here to access the guide.


New Client Website Design: Haven Tower Group

02.09.2012aHaven Tower Group WebsiteHaven Tower Group is a public relations firms primarily focused on serving the financial services, private equity/alternative investments, and real estate investment trust (REIT) industries. With over 100 years of collective relevant experience, the team at Haven Tower is dedicated to client success. At Haven Tower, their commitment is to thoroughly understand each client’s business, along with their vision and strategic goals. It is through this commitment that the Haven Tower team is able to fulfill their mission to directly support the strategic business goals of each client.

Haven Tower wanted a website design that would highlight the firm’s unique position within the public relations industry. The new website needed to clearly communicate the background of each Haven Tower professional and their expertise in past client accomplishments. This meant allowing the design to step back and the copy to take center stage. The clean website design allows the visitor to focus on the content while at the same time providing a pleasing context. The blog built into the website allows the Haven Tower team to easily update visitors on the latest firm news. This gives the team another opportunity to highlight their successes, experience, and capabilities.


New Client Website Design: Molera Alvarez

02.06.2012Molera Alvarez Web DesignMolera Alvarez is one of the largest and most influential business development and political consulting firms in Arizona. They provide a full range of services, from government affairs and business development to public relations and community outreach. Molera Alvarez has achieved results for many different kinds of clients, including Fortune 500 companies and non-profit groups.

Molera Alvarez came to Bop Design to position their firm as a national brand. This required an update to the look and feel of both their logo and their website. They wanted a brand identity that communicated elegance and sophistication without being intimidating. The new website design needed to showcase their numerous success stories and case studies, as well as highlight the firm’s involvement in social media.

Bop gave Molera Alvarez a website design that conveys both the firm’s sophistication and the personal relationships with their clients. The logo clearly communicates their core competency while the website copy educates visitors on the firm’s capabilities. The matching stationery and business cards complete the brand identity that supports Molera Alvarez’s position as a leading business development and political consulting firm.


Bop Design Challenges Conventional Wisdom with New Infographic on B2B Social Media Marketing

01.24.2012aB2B Social Media Marketing InfographicBop Design, a web design and marketing agency with offices in San Diego and New Jersey, has released a new infographic analyzing Facebook and LinkedIn usage. The marketing firm then applies these lessons to B2B marketing.

“Conventional wisdom says that if you are a B2C company, you should spend more time marketing on Facebook, and if you are a B2B firm, you should spend more time marketing on LinkedIn. Our infographic suggests that this strategy can be misguided,” states Bop Design Business Principal, Jeremy Durant. The infographic contends that prospective buyers do not compartmentalize professional and personal social networking, and that marketing to a prospective business buyer while they are socially networking on Facebook can still be effective.

“Let’s look at traditional advertising. Plenty of B2B companies market to potential business buyers on television during sporting events, game shows, etc. Also, plenty of B2B advertising takes place in other sections of the newspaper besides the business section. It’s the same idea with social media.”

The infographic focuses on the time spent on Facebook versus LinkedIn, and the mistaken notion that only young people socially network on Facebook. “A CEO may stay in touch with his children who are away at college through Facebook. That CEO may spend one hour a day on Facebook while he may only spend one hour a week on LinkedIn,” states Durant. “This is an excellent time to reach this CEO with the appropriate advertising message. Just because they are at home and socially networking on a personal level does not mean they turn off their CEO mind.”

View the B2B Social Media Marketing Infographic.


New Client Website Design: Ashdon Investment Management

01.23.2012Ashdon Investment Management is an SEC registered investment advisor firm. Based in Tennessee, they are focused on serving families and private organizations. Ashdon works with their clients to achieve financial goals in the fulfillment of specific missions.

Bop Design helped Ashdon brand itself with a logo re-design and a new website design. Bop partnered with strategic communications consultant Amy Zimmerman on this project. Amy provided the copy for the website while Bop provided the logo and website design. Because Ashdon’s clients see beyond financial assets to a larger mission, the website design needed to express that unique value proposition. The website focuses more on typography than on imagery, giving it a sophisticated, tasteful feel.

The limited imagery that does appear on the website connotes structure—particularly structure that isn’t readily apparent. This reinforces the concept of investment management that enables other, non-monetary goals. The recurring theme of plant life in the imagery portrays Ashdon’s belief in consistent, long-term investment returns, rather than short-term success.


New Client Website Design: Applefield-Shipp

01.13.2012Applefield-Shipp is an insurance brokerage firm serving small businesses in San Diego and the rest of southern California. The firm develops creative benefits solutions and alleviates the burden of benefits administration. Applefield-Shipp is committed to sincere, personalized, and respectful service. The experience and expertise of the team sets them apart from other insurance brokerage firms.

The team at Applefield-Shipp was looking for a website design that would appeal to HR decision makers and small-to-large business owners. They requested a design that struck a balance between contemporary and classic, while maintaining a corporate feel. The website needed to highlight Applefield-Shipp’s experience in providing creative solutions to their clients.


New Client Web Design: Family Law Group

01.09.2012Family Law Group WebsiteFamily Law Group is one of the premier family law firms in the Bay Area. They provide a full range of services from divorce mediation to child custody to adoption. Their commitment to quality, compassionate service and their highly-educated, focused attorneys set Family Law Group apart from other firms.

Family Law Group came to Bop for a logo design and website design. The logo created for them conveys the professionalism and warmth that characterizes the firm. They wanted a professional, user-friendly website design to complement the logo. Bop worked closely with the firm’s partners to design a clean, streamlined design with numerous personal touches. The matching stationery and business cards ties together a brand identity package that positions Family Law Group as a expert, caring firm.


New Client Website Design: Mark Goldman

01.06.2012Web Design Mark GoldmanMark Goldman is one of the leading residential loan officers in the San Diego area. He offers his services as a mortgage broker to everyone from first-time homebuyers to experienced real estate investors. He also spreads his wealth of knowledge of real estate finances through consulting and education.

As a specialist in real estate finance, Mark is frequently quoted in both local and national news. He needed a website design to both support and enhance his expert image. The simple, welcoming design highlight Mark’s talents in the world of real estate. The blog allows Mark to show his visitors the media coverage he’s received, establishing his position as a trusted advisor in the uncertain real estate market. The website also provides the visitor with free resources ranging from a mortgage payment calculator to a finance glossary. Mark’s new website will prove to be a valuable resource to both him and his clients.


New Client Website Design: Freedom to Live

01.05.2012aFreedom To Live Web Design ScreenshotFreedom to Live is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping survivors of spinal cord injuries and other catastrophically disabled individuals. FTL’s mission is to provide affordable housing and expert consulting and planning to sure a successful pathway from hospital to home.

As a new nonprofit fulfilling a specialized need, Freedom to Live needed a website design to communicate who they are and what they do. The bright color palette gives a sense of energy and hope. Photos of individuals who have received the benefits FTL has to offer bring home the reality of the cause. The blog and events calendar make it easy for recipients and supports alike to keep up with FTL news. The new Freedom to Live website design serves as an eye-catching and informative centerpiece of the nonprofit’s growth.


New Client Website Design: MaintenanceNet

12.20.2011aMaintenanceNet Web Design ImageBased in San Diego, MaintenanceNet is the leading provider of warranty and maintenance contract management services and data-driven lead generation. They serve manufacturers, distributers, and large resellers who are seeking to increase service revenues through maintenance service contracts and warranties. MaintenanceNet’s core offering, Service360, is a cloud-based platform that enables companies to streamline their sales process and uncover and take action on new service revenue opportunities.

MaintenanceNet is a modern, innovative company that wanted their website design to communicate who they are. They also wanted to establish continuity between the old website design and the new one by retaining the same logo and color scheme. The result is a professional, up-to-date website that highlights MaintenanceNet as a thought leader inservice contract management and the automation of service renewals.

As a fast-growing company, MaintenanceNet needed a strong foundation for current and future marketing communication efforts. The website design establishes their sophistication. The content management system, WordPress, will make it easier to update the website with industry best practices, news and company press releases. The integration of the selling services blog and MaintenanceNet’s social media channels adds to the cohesive, professional feel.


Bop Design Offers 5 Tips on 2012 Small Business Marketing Plans

12.01.2011a

December is typically a time for companies to develop a marketing plan for the coming year. As 2011 winds down and companies determine a plan to attract new clients and increase revenue for 2012, Bop Design, a marketing agency based in San Diego and New Jersey, reminds small businesses of five critical trends and components of an effective 2012 small business marketing plan.

One Tactic is Not a Strategy

Implementing a marketing plan that focuses on just one tactic is not a strategy. Bop Design Business Principal, Jeremy Durant, states, “I meet many small business owners who brag about how all their business is through referral or professional networking. That’s a fine strategy if you want to remain stagnate. If you want to grow, you can’t select one marketing tactic like networking and expect to dramatically increase your client pool.” Bop Design recommends a tactical mix that can include web marketing, print advertising, networking, referrals, direct mail, email marketing, etc. The optimal mix depends on a business’ ideal client and resources. Bop Design mentions that they have some clients who are allocating all marketing funds to the web, which can be shortsighted. “Clients come to us and want a new website design for their firm. That’s a great start but if the new website design is not part of an overall strategy, I would not waste your money.”

Marketing and Sales Alignment

As marketing planning begins for 2012, it is important that the sales department is involved from the start. Durant mentions, “Marketing may devise a strategy that is not effective in generating or nurturing ideal customer leads for the sales department. Marketing’s top priority is helping the sales team perform their job better so a business can generate more revenue.” Bop Design suggests that key sales team members are present in the initial marketing meetings to provide feedback marketing successes and failures. The sales team can then identify marketing tools that can help them build more credibility with prospects. “Marketing may make a false assumption on the success or failure of a campaign. For instance, marketing may implement a SEO campaign that drives many people to the firm’s website, prompting a large number of visitors to complete a website form requesting more information. Marketing may assume the campaign was a success but maybe the inquiries did not fit the ideal customer profile – wasting the sales team’s time.”

Delegate the Right Tasks

As a small business owner determines marketing functions for 2012, an owner needs to remember that typically no one does a better job at selling a firm’s services than they do. “Sometimes business owners delegate the wrong tasks to employees. When they become busy, the owner will hire a sales person while he or she performs administrative tasks. No one is better at conveying the value of his or her business than the owner. They are the ultimate brand evangelists.” Unfortunately many small business owners “stay inside” working on operations and don’t practice their core competency. Bop Design recommends that a business owner remains involved with professional networking. “They live and breathe the business and that naturally makes them the ultimate sales person.”

Social Media is here to stay!

Many small businesses, especially B2B firms, are resistant to any social media marketing. Durant adds, “We work with B2B firms that refuse to be active on social media – they think it is a fad and not an effective branding vehicle.” No matter if a firm is B2C or B2B, Bop Design advises its clients to build out their company profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn and make sure that all employees are linked to the company. As salespeople make face-to-face connections at networking events, they should follow up with a social media connection. “At the very least, social media is an effective method to stay top of mind with connections and position your firm as a thought leader in a particular industry.” Bop Design encourages a firm to post all news, press releases, success stories and relevant business articles on their social media accounts. “Social media allows a small business to amplify their brand message to existing connections, helping their sales team nurture a lead from an original inquiry to a customer.”

Analytics

The “I know 50% of my marketing is working, I just wish I knew which 50%” excuse is not valid anymore. With the analytical tools available especially on the web, it is relatively easy to determine which marketing tactics are effective and which ones are not. Google Analytics recently released “In-Page Analytics,” which provides an intuitive, visual representation of the actions taken by webpage visitors. In one quick view, a business can see the content and images effective in driving traffic through their website. Durant adds, “With Google Analytics, a business owner can not only determine if a marketing tactic was effective in driving people to the firm’s website but then see if the website design and content was effective in prompting action and engagement.”

Google has released another easy-to-use tool called the Google Optimizer. This tool lets a business test content, titles, images and other variables on a firm’s webpages. One can choose two webpages on the website and set up a Multivariate Experiment for each of the pages to test the content and/or layout of the page to see if a firm can increase clicks or conversion. “The analytical tools available allow a business decision maker to make optimal decisions on their marketing strategy and fine-tune tactics throughout 2012.”

About Bop Design, San Diego and New Jersey Web Design

Bop Design is a boutique marketing communications firm headquartered in San Diego with offices also in New Jersey. We express your business’ values through web design, branding, advertising and print design. We also help attract your ideal customer through search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Our focus is on small businesses that want an external team of marketing specialists to help give their brand an edge in the marketplace.


New Client Website Design: Miranda & Associates

11.18.2011Miranda Associates Website DesignMiranda & Associates (http://www.mirandaaccountancy.com) is a full-service accounting and management consulting firm. Based in southern California, they serve clients throughout Orange County, San Diego and the rest of the state and in select national and international regions.

As a firm dedicated to providing expert services and cultivating close relationships with clients, Miranda & Associates needed a website design to reflect that. The website presents a sophisticated, professional image without being stuffy. The structure of the site clearly shows both the services offered and the industries served, all the while highlighting Miranda & Associates’s experience and knowledge.

Bop Design worked closely with Miranda & Associates to select photos to perfectly complement the look and feel of the website design. The result is a website that clearly communicates who Miranda & Associates are and how their services can help businesses in need of financial and management services.

Learn more about CPA and accounting practice marketing.


Bop Design Selects the Top 5 Best College Football Logo Designs and Applies the Lessons Learned to Small Business Marketing

11.15.2011aWith the recent controversy over the new University of Maryland Terrapins football helmet and the college football season in full swing, Bop Design, a design agency with offices in San Diego and New Jersey, has released their list of the top 5 college football logo designs. Read the article below for the list of Bop Design’s top 5 college football logo designs and lessons that can apply to small business marketing.College Football Logo Designs

“It’s important that a college logo is versatile enough so it can be re-purposed on promotional items such as polo shirts, pens, field of play, etc. If the logo is too complex or ‘busy,’ it cannot be used in different situations. This is the problem with the current University of Maryland football helmet. The helmet is busy and distracting but most importantly, it cannot be easily utilized in other applications.”

Bop Design reminds businesses that the same lessons learned from college logo designs can be applied to the design of all marketing collateral – from website design to brochure design to print advertising design.

Here is the list of Bop Design’s top 5 college football logo designs and lessons that can apply to small business marketing

#5 Michigan State Spartans
The Spartan logo design is a clean rendition of the Spartan mask headgear. The disciplined design could have easily been overdone with too much detail or clutter. Instead, the design is simple but memorable. Jensen adds, “The Michigan State logo gives off the feeling of intimidation and seriousness with sharp lines and angles – which is perfect for a college football team.” The logo has staying power and classic styling – it’s been consistent since 1983. “It definitely holds its own again the classic collegiate ‘M’ of their intrastate rival.” Bop Design remarks that a clean logo is always advisable for any business. Jensen comments, “As a business, a logo is most effective when it is simple and clean. It conveys a message or idea about a company but does not go overboard. With all marketing collateral, less is more.”

#4 Miami Hurricanes
Many teams use a school’s initials for their logo, but the University of Miami Hurricanes logo design is unique with a dual tone one-letter icon. It acts more like a symbol than a letter. The logo has been so impactful that many people refer to the school simply as “The U” in reference to the logo itself. The logo design is clean, contemporary and will never go out of style. Jensen adds, “The Miami logo captures the ‘style’ of the South Florida region and it’s understated – they could have overdone this and made it UM.” This logo design has staying power – it was redesigned in 1972 but still looks contemporary. Bop Design cites company logos such as the Starbucks and McDonalds logo as two examples similar to the Miami Hurricanes. “Just like the Starbucks siren or the golden arches, all you have to do is see the ‘U’ and you know it’s Miami.”

#3 Clemson Tigers
The Clemson Tigers logo design displays a rich texture and a fun personality. The logo is a bold color palette and as the Clemson website claims, “Clemson University ‘owns’ the color orange.” The orange used in logo and branding is actually called “Clemson Orange”. Jensen comments, “The logo is versatile and the paw makes a mark. The school does not need the literal tiger or mascot like other universities.” The design is balanced, showcasing a nice size ratio. The school also has fun with the logo application – Clemson typically uses the logo as the “o” in Clemson. The school redesigned the logo in 1976 as a dramatic upgrade from the previous “tiger” logo that was entirely too intricate. Citing the Clemson Tigers logo, Bop Design reminds small businesses that they do not need to “connect all the dots” in a logo. Jensen adds, “Many businesses want a logo to convey their entire process or product. That is not the point of a logo. It is to entice and convey a general idea about a brand. Clemson could have easily remained with the tiger mascot as their logo but then there would be no mystery or intrigue.”

#2 Michigan Wolverines
The University of Michigan Wolverines logo design showcases the classic collegiate styling with the strong “M” icon. The bold, bright maize and blue colors allow the logo to be seen from afar and make a dramatic impact. Jensen adds, “The Michigan logo design is versatile, clean and balanced with a logo that will never change. People see the ‘M’ and they immediately know it stands for ‘Big Blue’.” Bop Design remarks that going simple, traditional and big can convey boldness. “Michigan is simply content with a big yellow ‘M’. This showcases confidence and bravado. The same idea can be applied to small business marketing. A firm having a simple bright logo design implies they are secure and not overcompensating for something.”

#1 Texas Longhorns
The Texas Longhorns logo symbolizes the strength of the football team and truly stands for the entire Texas geographic region. Jensen comments, “The horns are iconic and even translate well to the ‘hook’em horns’ slogan and hand signal. It’s versatile with just the right amount of detail.” The logo was originally designed in 1950 and has never changed. With Austin being a design-centric town, the Texas Longhorns logo definitely conveys the strong design talent in this college town. Bop Design reminds small businesses that a logo acts as a brand reflection and should express a company’s internal culture. Jensen adds, “No logo is more effective in conveying a local culture than the Longhorns logo in conveying the ethos and region of Texas. The same should apply to business – a firm’s logo should imply something about their employees and culture.”


Bop Design Issues a Warning to Small Businesses of a Common Design Mistake

11.15.2011bAccording to a recent study in the popular business book, The 24-Hour Customer, “People see more than 34 billion bits of information per day – an equivalent of two books per day.” Consumers are continuously bombarded with advertising messages and can suffer from information overload. “More data will be generated in the next four years than in the history of the world,” the book contends.

With more and more studies strengthening the case of information overload and advertising clutter, Bop Design, a San Diego website design agency, reminds small business owners of the most important tip when designing marketing collateral for their firm – white space is good space. White space is essentially the empty space between the texts or images in the composition of a page. “Whether it’s a website, brochure or business card, clients want to fill up the white space to say more about their company”, states Kara Jensen, Bop Design Creative Director. Bop Design reminds small businesses that customers are bombarded with brand messages all day long and it’s important that the most important messages are “front and center” with no distractions.

For instance, with website design, Bop Design advises all small business owners to practice discipline when making decisions on the design of their firm’s website. “There may be some unutilized space on the top right corner of the website and you are thinking to yourself, what can I put there? Or maybe the back of your business card simply has your tagline and for some reason, you think it’s a good idea to list all your services there as well. Even trained designers can be guilty of crowding up a design from time to time, but white space is a ‘must have’ in every design,” says Jensen.

White space, also known as “negative space” helps bring focus, balance and legibility to design. Having negative space around specific design elements allows viewers to focus on what’s most important – helping to communicate a brand message quickly and clearly. The goal is never to communicate everything at once; it’s to communicate the most important message quickly.

As an example, Bop Design cites the two anonymous website examples above. Jensen asks, “Both companies do the same thing but which website design is more effective?”
“Clearly, design #2 is a more effective website design because it communicates with ease and a visitor can easily find what they are looking for,” states Jensen. The Eye Tracking Update study confirms that empty space allows a visitor to focus on the most important message at hand. Also, “white space” does not technically have to be white – it can be an area of color that is empty.

According to a study from Eye Tracking Update, an organization focused on eye tracking news and trends, “Viewers love white space. White space is good. It’s tempting to fill up a page with text and images, but if you offer a viewer a white space, not only does it give them a place to rest their eyes; it helps focus information so readers know where to find it. Too much text overwhelms.” (http://www.eyetrackingupdate.com)
Jensen adds, “When designing your next marketing piece, PowerPoint or brochure – keep it simple, get rid of anything that isn’t absolutely necessary and learn to embrace the white space.”


Bop Design Offers Small Business Lessons Learned From The Great Recession

11.15.2011c

As the economy continues to be unstable, what lessons have small business owners learned from the 2008 “Great Recession” that they can apply to current economic times? Fortunately most small businesses have not forgotten their successes and mistakes over the brief years since 2008. Bop Design, a marketing agency focused on small businesses, reminds their clients of the lessons they learned as they were beginning as a business in 2008. “We could not have started at a worse time, but we have always said if we can make it through this, we can handle anything!” exclaims Jeremy Durant, Bop Design’s Business Principal. There are three lessons Bop Design considers best practices for any business as they navigate through this uncertainty. They all relate to making decisions rooted in confidence, not rooted in fear.

  • Still be Choosy with Your Clients. Don’t panic and act desperate! As a B2B company, a small business wants to be selective with its clients. A business does not want clients who will provide more heartache and stress than money. “One thing I learned in 2008 is to stick to your ideal customer profile – don’t sign clients who don’t fit your ideal customer profile. Sometimes we panicked and began to approach and sign clients because of the money. Don’t do it!” says Durant. There were many times in 2008 when Bop Design would sign a questionable client just because they were scared about the lost revenue. “Stay true to the ideal customer profile and trust your gut.”
  • Do Not Lower Price Arbitrarily. Prospective clients will push a business on price and want a firm to offer more services for less money. “If your pricing structure is sound, stay true to your pricing! Don’t lower your price without decreasing project scope,” advises Durant. A business will almost always regret reducing their price just to win the business.
  • Do Not Cut Marketing Investment. When times get tough, the first thing many businesses do is cut marketing allocations. It could be the worst time to cut marketing! As you navigate through the economic storm, maintaining an effective lead generation program is critical. “Even though marketing costs money, if implemented properly, it will still deliver a business plenty of ideal clients,” stresses Durant.

To sum it all up, it comes down to discipline. The more disciplined a business’ leadership is, the more successful a business will be in the long run. A good practice is to post both the mission and vision statement on an office wall to ensure practice discipline. With any strategic decision, a manager should always look to those statements and ask, “Does this fit my business?” Fear can cause one to become distracted and make decisions that do not fit the mission/vision of their company. Stay the course and always base decisions on confident thinking. Confident thinking will give a small business owner the discipline to stay on the straight line and be successful through this current economic uncertainty.


Bop Design Reveals the Top 5 Components for Small Business Website Design

10.04.2011San Diego, CA (PRWEB) October 04, 2011

Bop Design, a San Diego based marketing agency that works with small businesses throughout the United States, has released the five definitive website components every small business must have to be successful.

Bop Design, a San Diego based marketing agency that works with small businesses throughout the United States, has released the five definitive website components every small business must have to be successful. “In the past few months, there have been more and more TV commercials advertising small business website designs for less than $20 a month. Companies such as Intuit offer numerous templates and promise that a business owner can start doing business online immediately. This is a tad concerning since the top priority of any business is differentiation,” states Bop Design Principal, Jeremy Durant. “If template websites become the norm, every law office website, accounting firm website, management consultant website will look the same. Yes, the content may be different, but how long will a visitor remain on a website to make that determination? A business with a template website sorely underestimates how judgmental a website visitor can be. Imagine if there were only five templates for a restaurant layout or a clothing store interior design?” Durant questions. Bop Design contends that by “templating” marketing communications, a business is losing a prime opportunity to engage with their ideal customer. This applies to any size business in any industry – a business only has a few opportunities to gain customer attention and directly communicate to effectively position their brand.

Bop Design Creative Director, Kara Jensen contends, “Whether small business owners want to believe it or not, people subconsciously draw conclusions about their business when they look at all marketing communications – logo, website, marketing collateral and signage. A poor appearance can trump a firm’s experience, work, press, etc. and generate an overall lack of confidence among potential customers. With the website being the centerpiece of most small businesses marketing campaigns, why have a ‘me too’ strategy with a run-of-the-mill template website?”

According to BIA/Kelsey, small and medium size business spending on digital/online media will grow from $5.4 billion in 2010 to $16.6 billion in 2015 (http://www.bia.com). “With increasingly stiff competition among small businesses to attract and retain customers on the web, it is important that a business creates a unique website experience, which will generate better-qualified customer traffic and an increase in conversion – a visitor taking a desired action,” says Durant. Attracting the right customers and engaging them on a small business website can generate new revenue at an exponential rate. But how? How can something as superficial as website design impact the success of a small business? There are many reasons why a well designed website will attract an ideal customer and prompt dialogue with a company. Bop Design has identified the five fundamental components to keep in mind as a small business explores options for a website design that fits their unique business-

1. Navigation
Possibly the most important part of a website is the navigation. The navigation can make or break a small business website. If an ideal prospective customer can’t find what they’re searching for quickly, they will leave a website. On a custom website, navigation will be designed to fit a sitemap (outline of pages on a website) and be as intuitive as possible. A template site will consist of an “off the shelf” navigation that typically is not intuitive, adaptable or scalable. With a template website, a business may be forced to organize pages in an unnatural way because that’s what the template framework dictates. Good navigation should be easy to find and comprehend – making for quick and easy travel throughout the entire website. In most cases, a simplified navigation maximizes ease of use for a wider range of customers. “A good tip is that a business’ website navigation should be so intuitive even your 75-year old grandmother can understand it,” adds Jensen.

2. Brand Consistency
If a company has a corporate identity that is utilized frequently in print materials (i.e. business cards, pamphlets, letterheads, etc.), then the logo, brand colors, brand messaging and imagery used for print must be carried over to the website design. This is another potential danger of a template website – where colors and branding can be inconsistent with other marketing collateral. “Templates can consist of colors and imagery that are similar, but do no exactly match other marketing collateral. Customers are smart and can tell the difference and will make a judgment about your company,” says Durant. This can cause a prospective customer to visit a website and wonder if it’s even the same company. It is important for customers to recognize a brand in all forms of communication, so they associate the brand position and promise with the corresponding business. If the visual communication changes with a brand, it can cause customers to feel uncomfortable, which can cause them to create a negative association with a company.

3. Reading Patterns and SEO
Most people are comfortable reading a web page the same way they read a book, from top to bottom, left to right. Web designers also take this into account when designing a website. Good designers place the most important information on the upper left hand column. This will help get a brand message across more effectively. “Many templates limit content placement on a webpage and business owners can find it difficult working within these constraints. Also, placing important information in these areas of a website improves search engine optimization (SEO),” states Jensen. When you include important company-related keywords in the html-based text, search engines such as Google and Bing are able to crawl a website easily, increasing search engine placement and giving a website and small business more overall visibility. As a small business, be cautious with template websites and ensure that the backend programming is clean and up-to-date so that search engines can easily crawl the website. If SEO is a top priority, hiring a firm with SEO expertise to do a custom website design is always the best bet.

4. Content & Messaging
The content of a small business website is important for reasons besides the fact that it literally communicates a company’s brand position and promise. There are other important elements considered when a copywriter creates the content and the designer creates the complementary visual environment. Making the message short and to the point, yet warm and welcoming (depending on the industry,) helps the reader to remember the message easier. Also, when there is too much text on a page, the page becomes visually cluttered making it more difficult for a reader to physically read the page let alone remain interested. By streamlining the content, the designer is then able to insert the text into their design, which typically includes plenty of negative space. This empty space lets the reader’s eyes rest so they do not tire of reading. If they tire, the visitor will leave a website. With a template, the website design is already determined and one must fit the content into the design of a page. This can lead to clutter which in turn, leads to visitor fatigue. One advantage of a custom website design is that content creation and website design work in sync. Durant compares design and content to songwriting, “where lyrics and music are typically created in tandem.”

5. Trust
Building trust among customers is extremely important, but will not happen unless a business really gets to know them and what they value. Marketing communications can act as a dialogue with potential customers, which will be a great way to discover more about a clientele’s needs. By strengthening dialogue with customers, a small business can implement tactics that positively resonate in a custom website design. On the other hand, a website template will not be designed specifically with ideal customers in mind and may turn them off by not being compelling or professional enough. Credibility and professionalism are two primary objectives of any small business website design, but also keep in mind conveying some personality through a website. “Don’t be so professional that your website borders on being ‘stuffy.’ The more welcoming and trustworthy a website is to visitors, the more traffic on the website, which will then lead to an increase in new business leads,” adds Jensen.

Summary
A website designed specifically for a particular business and its target market is the most effective gateway to new ideal customers. If designed properly, a visitor will land on a small business website and become excited due to the compelling design and relevant content. Because a website is so engaging, a prospective customer will spend significant time on it and conclude that it’s time to begin a relationship with that business.

# # #

Original Article link: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/10/prweb8843904.htm


Bosses’ job descriptions grow

09.04.2011aTruck unloader, office manager, you name it and the head of a small business is doing it

Ever seen a chief executive driving a forklift?

You likely won’t find statistics this Labor Day on how hard small-business owners are working to keep their companies afloat. But ask any local entrepreneur and you’ll get an earful about his or her ever-growing “to do” list.

We profile three hard-working San Diego business owners here.

“I don’t really add up my hours, because it’s whatever it takes to get the job done,” said Jim Frost, president and general manager of Frost Hardwood in San Diego. Frost is not only the boss, he’s also the company’s credit manager and buyer of imported lumber, positions left unfilled for now.

And when there’s a truck to be unloaded, guess who may be doing the heavy lifting?

“I don’t wear a tie anymore, because I never know when I’ll have to jump on a forklift,” Frost said.

Times are tough, even though the recession is technically over. For the small businesses that are surviving, it’s often with a skeletal crew. They’re holding off on hiring help, but obligations haven’t fallen off.

Often, if there are customers to greet at the counter or an invoice to send, chances are good the owner is the one handling those tasks, said John Kabateck, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business in California.

“More and more small-business owners in California are working harder — and with fewer employees — thanks in large part to the soaring costs and mandates heaped on them by government at every level,” Kabateck said. “Many have already scaled back operational costs to extreme bare-bones levels. When unanticipated new taxes, fees or regulations hit them from left field, they have nowhere left to trim but their employees.”

Nearly 70 percent of small-business owners do not plan to make hires in the next year, according to a survey released last week by The Small Business Authority, which provides professional services for about 100,000 business accounts.

“I just wish the income was enough that I could hire a part-time worker here,” said Lisa Schmidt, who owns the gift shop Lisa’s Cottage in La Mesa. “The picking and the searching and the buying — that’s my forte.”

Many small-business owners are hiring only for duties they can’t do themselves. Take the case of Jeremy Durant of Bop Design in San Diego, who brought on a Web developer with skills that he lacked. Otherwise, Durant estimates that he is working an extra three hours a day to handle tasks such as driving to the bank to deposit checks.

“I have to determine: What are the tasks that I can take on, that are not going to take that much time?” he said.

BY TANYA MANNES, REPORTER – SMALL BUSINESS, SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2011 AT 6 A.M.

Original article link: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/sep/04/at-small-businesses-its-busy-at-the-top/


At small businesses, it’s busy at the top

09.04.2011bBop Design: Hiring some employees, but long days for the owners

Jeremy Durant and his wife, Kara Jensen, established Bop Design after he was laid off from a creative agency in 2008.

“We noticed there was such a need among small businesses that are professional services companies for effective marketing,” Durant said.

Bop Design soon signed up law firms and environmental consultants, among others, for a variety of services, including client generation, email marketing and search-engine optimization.

With an office in Bankers Hill, Durant has hired two full-time employees and about seven independent contractors. The company had revenue last year of $110,000, and it’s on track to triple that number this year, he said.

As Bop Design was gaining its footing, Durant and Jensen carefully considered whether they could bring on new employees. They decided to hire a Web developer because they needed someone with technical expertise, and a project manager to work directly with customers.

Kara Jensen and her husband, Jeremy Durant, started Bop Design after Durant was laid off in 2008. They have hired two full-time employees, and Durant is the default office manager.
Kara Jensen and her husband, Jeremy Durant, started Bop Design after Durant was laid off in 2008. They have hired two full-time employees, and Durant is the default office manager.

For now, Durant is the default office manager.

“I would love to bring somebody on to do that,” he said. “It takes away from my core competency, which is really business development and sales.”

Durant spends around three hours a day on office management, from paying the water-cooler bill to setting up the company’s intranet site. During a recent morning, he wrote a creative plan for a client, then headed to the bank to deposit checks. He and Jensen often end the day at a networking event, such as those held by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m working, on average, 70 hours a week,” Durant said. “It’s amazing how as a small-business owner, you’re such a generalist.”

Still, he doesn’t mind putting in the time. “Most of what I do every day, I enjoy,” he said.

BY UNION-TRIBUNE, SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2011 AT 6 A.M.

Original article link: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/sep/04/at-small-businesses-its-busy-at-the-top/


Guest Blog by Richard Clayman: Appreciating the Primal – Part 4 – Your Script

07.12.2011In writing your website videos, we’ve determined that what’s necessary is the skill of a television writer. After all, when you or your spokesperson pops up on the website visitor’s screen, it’s much like a TV commercial.

Or is it?

Think about this – when a television ad comes on, are you expecting it? Were you actively looking for it? Is it always something you’re interested in purchasing?

Of course not. The TV ad is designed to catch the attention of someone heading to the fridge or the bathroom. To halt the conversation about to start during a break in the programming. Maybe to get you to stop cleaning the living room for thirty seconds. Which means it has to be loud, in-your-face, and perhaps funny. Or absolutely quiet.

Regardless, something which will make you look up and pay attention, and on the fourth or fifth pass, get you interested in buying.

Not so with website videos. This audience is sitting at the computer or PDF searching for exactly what you sell. They’re already sold on the idea. They just need to decide on whom to place their trust to deliver the goods.

So when writing the teleplay for your website videos, remember the following:

  1. As hard as it is, don’t sell. No elevator speeches here. Be comfortable and conversational. Don’t be inappropriate for the intimate relationship between the viewer and the device, or you’ll be back-buttoned into the ether before two seconds have passed.
  2. Keep your eye on the ball, which is to immediately relay a sense of who you are. While not so casual as to be sloppy, don’t shy away from relaxed dialogue. Use contractions. Throw in a “well” or “yep.” Stay away from arcane terminology, particularly if it’s grossly multi-syllabic.
  3. Make sure, however, that it’s all in the context of what you do. We don’t want to see (as I recently noticed on a substantial law firm’s site) you putting on your scuba gear, or dancing in your ballet tutu, or sitting before your easel covered in paint. It’s great that you do those things, but that’s not what we’re there for.
  4. Keep each piece short, not much over :30 seconds, if that long (keep testimonials, which I don’t like to script, even shorter). Four short website videos on four separate pages is easily preferable to a single piece four times as long on your Home Page. A couple of reasons: Longer videos are more difficult to download and watch smoothly. And if the visitor views a compelling video on the Home Page and then clicks on the, say, About Us Page, without any video, it will feel deader than Frank McCourt’s chances of keeping The Dodgers.
  5. Read it aloud. Over and over. If something doesn’t come out of your mouth comfortably, then rewrite it until it does.

Hey, you can’t always hire a professional TV writer. But if you follow these rules, and take your time doing it, you may just find that the script for you website video or marketing video will be pretty darned good.

Once the script is right, the next step in making effective website videos is the filming. We’ll begin on the various elements available and which are necessary in the next post.

About the Author
Richard Clayman, Cloudwalker VideoWorks
Richard Clayman’s multiple award-winning career has spanned 30 years as a director, producer, writer, executive, and actor in television, theater and film. Projects on which Richard has directly worked have won dozens of Emmys, Golden Globes, and many other awards.


Guest Blog by Richard Clayman: Appreciating the Primal – Part 3 – Writing Your Script

07.01.2011aIn the last two posts, we’ve looked at what website videos and marketing videos are made to engender.

Trust.

An immediate sense with the visitor that he or she doesn’t merely know what you do for a living, or what your taste is in fonts, colors, or IStock photos, or about your economy with written words (quite likely written by someone else, by the way).

We’ve discussed why it’s so important that your website visitors, human beings searching for someone to deliver a specific service or product, get an instant sense of more than what you do – who you are.  And why you shouldn’t sell in that intimate setting.

The whats and the whys.  Now let’s take a look at the hows.

The first step in creating a top-quality video is – just like with your website – the writing.  So who’s going to do that?  You could.  Take all of your experience in manufacturing baby rattles or surfboards, or addressing a jury, or filing a tax form, or investing people’s money, and use it when you put pen to paper and write a script.

Oh, right, that experience, profound as it is, doesn’t help much there, does it?

Okay, go hire a professional copy writer, perhaps that bright young woman who did such a nice job with your website text.

Although, quite likely, this will be her first teleplay.

For that’s what needs to be written for your videos.  A teleplay, the television version of a screenplay (which, of course, is the movie version of a play).  So tell me – would you have a plumber rewire your kitchen?  A labor attorney review your will?  A mortgage banker sell your home?

I don’t think so.  Then why would you have a (perhaps fine) writer with no video experience turn out your website video, product video, TV ad, or fundraising film teleplay?

Think about it.  While a screenwriter is a writer, a writer is not necessarily a screenwriter.

Remember, your website video or marketing video is, first and foremost, a film.  And if every aspect of its creation – beginning with the writing –  is not overseen by a true professional in the craft, well, it just won’t be as good a film as it could be.

Next time, more on what to look for in this kind of writing.

Read Part 1
Read Part 2

About the Author
Richard Clayman, Cloudwalker VideoWorks
Richard Clayman’s multiple award-winning career has spanned 30 years as a director, producer, writer, executive, and actor in television, theater and film. Projects on which Richard has directly worked have won dozens of Emmys, Golden Globes, and many other awards.


Guest Blog by P2 Photography: Hiring a Commercial Photographer

06.21.2011Your brand is an important investment.  As Meryl Streep once said, “How you first meet the public is how the industry sees you.  You cannot argue with them.  That’s their perception.” Once you are ready for custom imagery, hiring the right commercial photographer to illustrate that brand can be overwhelming.  An experienced professional photographer will be able to walk you through the process and assess possible challenges, but knowing what to expect and what kinds of questions to ask can make the experience less complicated.

Phase One: Determining the Details of the Project
Before beginning your search for the right photographer, iron out as many project details as you can.  The photographer will need as much information as possible in order to properly estimate the job.

A few things to consider:

  • How many products or people do you need photographed?
  • Would you like the products or people photographed in a natural environment, such as an office or factory, or on a studio background?
  • If using a studio background, what color would you prefer (grey, black and white are standard, but other colors may be available)?
  • If shooting in a factory or office building, when is the least invasive time to do so?
  • What kind of post-production will you require (facial retouching, removing dust and scratches from equipment, adding skies or sunset…there’s no limit to what you can request)?
  • What will you be using the images for?  Be as detailed as possible.  For example: second page of website, print brochure with a distribution of 5,000, 1/4 page advertisement in national magazine running for 4 months.
  • What are your preferred shooting days and what is your deadline?
  • What is your budget?  Many photographers will ask you for a project budget range, so be prepared to discuss this with them.

Phase Two: Finding the Right Photographer
A google search for “San Diego corporate photographer”, “San Diego commercial photographer”, etc will bring up many options.  Another resource is the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) Find A Photographer listing (http://asmp.org/find-a-photographer), which allows you to search by city or specialty.  Everyone listed on the site is a professional who makes their living shooting images.  Take some time to look at the portfolios and find a style that fits your brand.

Phase Three: Understanding the Photographer’s Fee Structure
Commercial photographers consider two factors when pricing a job.  The first is their creative fee which, as the name implies, is the fee for their services as a creative visual communicator.  Second is the licensing fee.  This fee is based on your intended use of the images.  Because photographers create intellectual property, legally they own the copyright and must license the images to you for use.  This system protects both you and the photographer in the event of infringement or misrepresentation.  Licenses can be tailored to fit your exact needs or include broader rights to cover possible future use.  For example, if you only need the images for your website, the usage fee will be less than if you want to use them for a trade show and a billboard.  Be prepared to have a detailed conversation with the photographer about your current and future licensing needs.

Other fees may include post-production, file transfer or an assistant to help coordinate the shoot.  These will be listed clearly on the estimate.  Expenses may be asked for up front if they are considerable, and mileage fees are calculated at the current government mileage rate.  Most payment schedules are Net:30, so be sure and let the photographer know right away if your company is on a different pay schedule.  Lastly, take a close look at all estimate line items and don’t be afraid to come back to the photographer with questions or ask him or her to revise their estimate.

Phase Four: Sealing the Deal
Once an estimate has been agreed upon, the photographer will send you a contract.  This must be signed and returned to the photographer before any shooting can take place.  If a change to the project occurs while the shoot is underway, the photographer will ask you to sign a Change Order.  If you cannot be responsible for signing the Change Order, they will request that you fax it to the appropriate person before going ahead with the rest of the shoot.

As commercial photographers, part of our job is to make this process easy for you.  Keep open communication, clearly state your needs and have as many conversations as you need to in order to feel comfortable.  Then sit back and watch your new, custom images work for you.

About the Author
Jenna Close, along with partner Jon Held, own and operate P2 Photography.  They are commercial photographers who specialize in the corporate marketplace, in particular the alternative energy industry.  Their assignments include photographing everything from factories to portraits to products in the United States and abroad.  P2 Photography also provides low angle aerial images using their remotely controlled helicopter.  The company was voted 2008 San Diego Photographer of the Year by the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), and Jenna currently serves as a director on the National Board of ASMP.  P2 Photography’s work can be found online at http://www.p2photography.net.


Guest Post by Richard Clayman: Appreciating the Primal – Part 2

Primal behavior. When you do it right in marketing videos it inspires trust. Which is exactly what you want.

Being at my core a filmmaker, no matter the project, it’s always my job to be one thing above all else. The audience.

A network TV audience at home after work looking to relax is a very different audience than folks buying tickets to the movie theater for a Sunday matinee. The audience sitting at a gala event watching the new fund-raising film for a non-profit is not at all the same as the audience for a corporate video portraying a company’s virtues.

So why would a website video be anything like the others?

It’s not. “Being the audience” starts with visualization, then intellectualization, and, finally, empathy. Where is that audience member? What is he or she doing when viewing this? Why is that person here at all? What will deliver what that viewer is seeking?

Website videos – and we’re speaking marketing videos here, not entertainment – are usually seen in the most intimate way. One on one with the computer screen in an office or, perhaps more likely, a home. The viewer didn’t get to the website by accident – chances are it’s the result of a search, meaning that viewer has found a listing of providers for a product or service he or she probably is thinking of buying.

In other words, when the audience – the viewer – arrives at a product or service site (as opposed to retail or informational), that viewer knows what it’s about. No education is necessary. They don’t need to know what you do. They need to know who you are. This is where video – the right video – can’t be beaten.

So, when putting together a website video, you must keep certain precepts in mind.

Because the setting is intimate, the right video doesn’t try to sell.

Because the viewer knows what you do, you don’t have to keep saying it.

In the context of what you do, you simply must give that viewer a window into who you are. Not simply as a real person. As a real person who is, in your field, a professional.

There are specific ways to address these issues in film terms. We’ll begin to get into those in the next posting.

Read Part 1 of Appreciating the Primal

About the Author
Richard Clayman, Cloudwalker VideoWorks
Richard Clayman’s multiple award-winning career has spanned 30 years as a director, producer, writer, executive, and actor in television, theater and film. Projects on which Richard has directly worked have won dozens of Emmys, Golden Globes, and many other awards.


Guest Post by George Robertson: 3 Tips for Working with Bloggers – The Right Way

06.13.2011A few years back TechCrunch published what I consider to be The Blueprint for approaching bloggers – and these tips still resonate. Brian Solis, the author of the post, is back in the news with his new book about social marketing, Engage. Here are 3 of his tried-and-true tips that ring most true for me:

  1. You’re not the only story in town!
    In the post Solis states: “You send me an unsolicited press release as a “story idea”, and I write a new spam filter / auto-delete rule.” We see this now more than ever. My recommendation: Pitch very selectively and intimately know your targets interests, or you will be blocked. And don’t send them a press release unless they ask for it.
  2. Pick the Right Person to connect with the blogger
    Bloggers are not your average journalists, some, like Michael Lamoureux, blogger of Sourcing Innovation, is a PhD in computer science. His view: “A PR person who thinks Java is what you drink when you wake up…is probably not the right person to be reaching out to the doctor.” Be sure you have the right person pitching your key bloggers, especially if they need to go deep on technology or industry specifics, essential for establishing credibility.
  3. No Two Bloggers are Created Equal
    And this, from Solis: “Relationships are cultivated and should be mutually beneficial as dictated by the extra time the PR team takes to personalize and package the story and align it with their workflow.” Bloggers respect you more when they understand you are targeting them, and not just blasting some cookie-cutter pitch out to a massive list. Kind of like customers.

About The Author:
George Robertson, Media Strategist at Corporate Ink
Going on his sixth year at Corporate Ink, George Robertson is a media pro – driving killer placements every week in the pubs our clients care most about. He’s the insider’s insider when it comes to security and health care.


Guest Post by Steven Richardson: See and Be Seen – Solutions for Video on the Web

06.07.2011One of the questions we get asked all the time is ‘How do I get my video SEEN on the web?’ There are lots of simple things you can do to help get your video the viewers it needs, and most of them have to do with the placement and presentation of the video on your own website. Use this checklist below and see how your video measures up:

  1. Is your video on your website? There are lots of popular venues for placing video content, like Youtube and Vimeo, but an essential place for your video to be is on your own website. It’s a great chance for visitors to see be introduced to you while on your site, and to leave it out is a wasted opportunity.
  2. Where does your video show up on your website? If your answer is anything other than the Home page, then you could be losing potential viewers. As much as we all hope that visitors will click through and explore an entire website, the truth is that many visitors may not look farther than the Home page for several visits. Placing your video on the Home page gives your video the greatest chance of exposure. Additionally, placing the video on the top half of the Home page goes even further for catching a visitor’s attention.
  3. How are you labeling your video? Have you ever been on a website with icons that say ‘Learn About Us’ or ‘The Company Story’? There could be a video behind that link, or there could be a press release, or another web page, or a PDF – who knows? And since you only have a few seconds to grab a persons attention on the web, we’ve found that being direct seems to work best. What do you want the visitor to do? Tell them – ‘WATCH OUR VIDEO’!
  4. How are you presenting your video? Have you ever tried to watch a video on the web and been frustrated with how small it is, or how pixelated it is, or how the audio and video don’t sync up? Do you tough it out and watch it, or do you abandon ship and keep surfing? Now think about how your own video is presented. You’ve made the investment in a video for your company – treat it like the investment that it is! Knowing this is important, we offer video hosting packages that will help ensure your video is played – and seen – in the highest quality possible.

As with all lists, this is just a start. But on the road to getting your video viewed, these tips can help you get you on your way to more views and better results.  Check out the home page of our website to see some of our featured portfolio items, and this checklist in practice!

About the Author
Steven Richardson, Founder and President of Point7West
The founder and creative director of Point7West has worked in corporate video, sharing brands with the world for over 15 years. Believing that traditional corporate videos lacked spark, Steven was inspired to create visually stunning videos that would truly express a client’s true image.

Steven anchors the company with production services, video marketing and a focus on the image film industry. Steven has been committed to branding companies through image films and commercials, enabling clients to tell their unique stories with dynamic video in a polished and effective way. Helping each client meet business goals with each video, Steven has developed relationships with clients in varied industries.

With a background in corporate branding, entrepreneurship and strategic marketing, Steven has seen it all and filmed in the most interesting locations. He marvels that no job is ever the same—with different people, different locations and different stories to tell, Steven is inspired every day he gets to work with a new client. Whether he’s filming the corporate headquarters of a large company or the scenic outdoor spa of a resort hotel, Steven is always looking for fresh angles and exciting ways to capture his client’s message in the most visually stirring way.


Guest Post by Richard Clayman: Appreciating the Primal

05.20.2011It seems I’ve been involved in film as long as I’ve been around. For a start, I grew up in L.A. My mom signed on at Fox when I was 12. I had the opportunity to be an extra on “Hello, Dolly” when I was 14, but opted to spend that summer day at the beach. I worked on the labor crew there when I was 17, watching Irwin Allen direct Shelley Winters and Gene Hackman in the underwater scene from “The Poseidon Adventure.” I somehow was the producer of “The John Wooden Show” while still a senior in college.

I’ve watched the medium – especially in television – grow. When I began with Norman Lear in the late 70s, working on shows like “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” and “Sanford & Son,” we were recording on 2-inch quad videotape. It was a new technology, from production all the way through post. Before I was gone, we had moved on to 1″ tape and, soon after, it was digibeta. All of it, of course, a precursor to the tapeless, digital revolution.

I even sat at Zoetrope Studios in 1982 as Francis Ford Coppola screened a new form of tape – high-resolution (1125 lines, if I recall) HDTV. Produced on revolutionary equipment supplied by Matsushita of Japan. The same folks, I was told, who had built the Zeros which bombed Pearl Harbor. Probably, back then, some of them were still working there.

In other words, technology has made great and ongoing strides in my 30 years in the biz. But one thing hasn’t changed and never will.

The species of the audience.

Well, yes, a dog or cat or probably even llama will watch TV. But the shows are made for good old homo sapiens. So, no matter the delivery method, whether it be HDTV or IPhone or website video, the ballgame remains the same as it was when I produced the Wooden show on 16mm film.

To touch human beings on a primal level.

In the world of website videos, marketing videos, fund-raising videos for non-profits, and – as I’ve found lately – both product videos and fine art videos, you as the film-maker must start in the same place. Who is your audience? What drives them on an animal level? How do you touch them deeply, rather than intellectually?

As Frank Capra famously noted, it’s the job of the film-maker to make decisions. From writing to lighting, from performance to make-up, from location to pace, each decision you make will affect your final video in ways perhaps not recognizable, but certainly crucial.

In the next few weeks, I’ll explore how to make many of these decisions, and explain why the choices you make are the determining factors in whether or not your website videos engender the one thing they must above all else.

Trust.

About the Author
Richard Clayman, Cloudwalker VideoWorks
Richard Clayman’s multiple award-winning career has spanned 30 years as a director, producer, writer, executive, and actor in television, theater and film. Projects on which Richard has directly worked have won dozens of Emmys, Golden Globes, and many other awards.


Guest Post by Shawn Dennison: Video in Business

05.10.2011As business owners, we are always looking for new ways to market our companies. When a potential customer searches the Internet looking for a service, what is going to make your company stand out from the rest? You need to articulate your brand and make an impression — quickly. One of the best ways of accomplishing this is by developing a high quality video to introduce yourself and your product — produced by a professional video production company. A video can be used to market your business in multiple ways: embedded within your website, in a video news release, posted on social media sites and YouTube, email marketing, interactive displays and commercials.

According to PR Newswire, multimedia content is more broadly distributed – because each element of a multimedia release is distributed separately, and can attract its own audience – in social networks, and on search engines. Videos, for example, are distributed to more than 70 video-specific portals. Social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, allow people to share information quickly and enthusiastically with others. Consumers can “like” your video and your business – and distribute this information to their friends and followers.

These days, anyone with a flip cam or camcorder can call them self a professional videographer. From my perspective, the finished product that is produced in these cases often lacks a polish and can reflect poorly on your brand. Will potential customers that view your website take you seriously after seeing a poor quality video? Will they want to do business with you? In most cases, the answer is no.

You need to hire a reputable video production company with proven experience, has the demos to prove it, and has demonstrated ROI for their customers. You will notice when using a high quality company that it has a demonstrated professional shooting style, including the use of a tripod for steady video; crisp, clear audio; and enhanced lighting of interviews and scenery.

Would you make a positive impression interviewing for a job in shorts and sandals, or in a suit? The same can be said for video in marketing your business. A professional video will effectively tell your story, build your brand and get positive results.

About the Author:
An experienced and innovative photojournalist, D-PRO Inc. owner and president Shawn Dennison has more than 23 years of broadcast, commercial and corporate video expertise. Shawn has won numerous regional news Emmy ® Awards and Telly ® Awards, as well as being honored by the National Press Photographers Association and the Associated Press for excellence in videography and editing. For more information, visit www.dprovideoproductions.com.


Guest Blog by V Group: Learning to Thrive in a Signcentric Society

05.06.2011
V Group Helps San Diego Small Businesses Get Noticed

Imagine a world without signs. The favorite corner coffee shop would remain a mystery. That delicious neighborhood deli would never be discovered. The unique boutique tucked away in a foreign city among a sea of retailers would be lost forever. The savory brew sampled from a new local pub would lay in obscurity. No one would know where to stop to fill up the gas tank on a long road trip or where to grab that juicy Big Mac, without outside signage.

Ron Morabito, CEO and founder of V Group, a San Diego-based visual marketing solutions company, can’t fathom this kind of cryptic society, where retailers remain anonymous, because he produces business signs for a living, as well as trade-show displays, printing, and promotional products.

“Signage is essential to a small business as it is the first point of contact a company has with a potential customer. Whether you are a retailer, restaurant, service provider, or anyone dealing with the public, signage is one of the most cost-effective ways to advertise your business over the long term,” says Mr. Morabito.

V Group, founded in 2007, has grown to become one of the most respected and relied upon signage companies in San Diego. With a diverse client base, including sports teams, restaurants and casinos, V Group offers unique product combinations to both small and large businesses.

Jeff Bolitho, general manager of Aztec Sports Properties, has worked with V Group for three years to create signage, from small counter top signs to large stadium banners for the San Diego State University Aztecs.

“We often need a quick turnaround on signage needs when working with our sponsors, but we also demand quality. V Group provides both services, and we love them for it,” says Mr. Bolitho.

For small businesses to prosper in a continually highly competitive retail environment, it is imperative to use signage, a timeless and staple medium that alerts consumers, ‘WE ARE HERE,’ says Mr. Morabito. Businesses can communicate their physical presence to customers immediately and economically with on-premise signage. And if a retailer’s physical presence is prominent, customers will enter the store out of need, want, product loyalty, or maybe even simple curiosity.

Signs are multi-purpose marketing vehicles that can be used to promote a number of functions, including: consumer impulse shopping, brand awareness, advertising reinforcement, purchasing persuasion, or physical building markers.

Today’s consumers are active and on-the-go with little time and short attention spans.

With new distractions like mobile advertising, it’s even more important to reach potential customers directly with visible signage, including an attractive logo or trademark and clear, bold text that grabs the passing public within 2 to 3 seconds. The goal is for customers to respond to and react to signage and lure them into a small business, or at the very least, commit that business into their memory for a future visit or word of mouth advertising.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s marketing series article, SIGNS: Showcasing Your Business on The Street, “…on-premise signs can mean the difference between business success or failure. In the modern market-place, the right place-based advertising will effectively and economically permit the local shopkeeper to successfully complete, even with the mass merchandiser or larger retailer.”

Make signage a permanent part of a comprehensive small business strategy. Signage is a universal language and permanent advertising device that is less expensive and more sustainable than other forms of media messaging, such as print, TV or radio. If signage is readable and noticeable, pedestrian foot traffic and profits are sure to follow.

About the Blogger:
For more information on what V Group can do for your organization, or to schedule and interview with V Group CEO, Ron Morabito contact V Group at (619) 307- 6342 or at www.vgroupstore.com.

 


Selecting a Typeface for your Website

04.28.2011Typography is, unfortunately, becoming a lost art. With a vast ocean of new typefaces to choose from and new typefaces being created everyday, it seems as if many people simply get discouraged and choose the first font they think might work. In fact, there are a few easy things to keep in mind when researching which typeface to choose that will make a world of difference in the readability and success of your website and, ultimately, your business.

The first question you must ask yourself is “what will be the purpose of this typeface?” When dealing with type on the web, there is usually a lot of content that a company needs to present in order to get the necessary information to the client or customer. Likewise, there is also a need for larger, header text to introduce these longer paragraphs, and also to navigate the site. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to keep the amount of typefaces used on one website to as few as possible. Too much variation in typeface can cause clutter and confusion. So in this case, and for most cases, two typefaces need to be chosen; one for the header or introductions and navigation, and one for the content.

The content of your site may be the most important way of getting information to your clients. When choosing a typeface best for the content, readability is the most important thing to consider. You want to be sure the reader is able to track from line to line easily without having to stop and relocate where they left off. Keeping the font as simple as possible can accomplish this, which means the selection of readable, content specific web fonts limits creativity and originality to an extent. In this case, the function of the typeface is more important than the form. There are many serif and sans serif fonts that can accomplish readability while maintaining the image of your company. Making sure the typeface you select is still readable with the color and format within your website design is the main goal. And for optimum versatility, the typeface you select must have many different variations, such as bold, italic, light, medium, etc. Also, selecting an extended typeface can create even more options, such as multilingual capabilities. When in doubt, read a chunk of content copy to make sure it is readable.

Choosing a header typeface, also called a display font, is usually an easier process than choosing the content typeface because a header typeface does not need to be as readable since it is not read line after line. But because it needs to grab the attention of the viewer while establishing the overall visual mood of the site, it can sometimes be tricky. The goal is to find a typeface that fits the image you want your company to portray. A typeface such as avenger may not be the best display font for a flower arrangement company (quite obviously). And while Edwardian Script  might capture the image of the flower arrangement company, the readability is an issue for a website where customers go to find facts about the company fast. In this case, it is best to keep the typeface as simple and professional as possible while still maintaining some of the company’s personality.

Reference:

http://typographica.org/2011/on-typography/intro-to-typeface-selection/

 


Guest Blog by Sanjiv Prabhakaran: Struggling with a Never-Ending Software Project?

04.25.2011A few months ago, an entrepreneur approached us with a very typical problem that we have seen happen many times. His project was within budget (so he thought) but far from complete after 6 months of time and effort. So, although he thought it was within budget, the fact was that for the money spent so far nothing major was accomplished. After some review, we found that he had taken all the basic steps to outline the initial requirements and to prepare the site layouts, the wire-frames, time-lines, etc., but he was missing the key factor of proper development and monitoring practices. There was a lack of well-defined target milestones that could be measured properly. Despite periodic status meetings and display of some progress, the important features were not emerging in the design, and there were many bugs even during simple demonstrations. Since he was not technical enough it was difficult for him to gauge what was happening.

It is crucial to ensure that any development project has a well-defined strategy for the development approach, proper project management, quality assurance and testing phases well planned. Ideally, the team must consist of a project manager, appropriate number of programmers and database specialists, and one or more quality assurance and quality control engineers. When a project is outsourced to a remote team, it is very important to ensure that there is a local project coordinator with whom you may directly discuss project statuses.

About the Blogger:
Sanjiv Prabhakaran is a senior executive with 25 years of software development management and technical architecture experience for applications in fleet management, automatic vehicle location systems, wireless mobile data applications, enterprise web applications for business management, corporate real estate, and financial markets. He holds an MSEE from Ohio State University. He has also been the inventor and recipient of 9 U.S. patents in the fields of Fleet Management, Mapping technology and Mobile Data suite. In addition, Prabhakaran’s experience includes image processing, complex GPS integration, radio-modems and data terminals.

In early 2002, Mr. Prabhakaran founded Bytes, Inc. to provide very low cost and rapid software outsourcing and project management services. Please see http://www.bytesinc.com. Prior to this position he was vice president of engineering and R&D at BayLogics, a software solutions e-business company offering enterprise-level asset management, lease management and financial applications to the retail, telecommunications, healthcare and energy industries to F1000 customers. He previously served in senior management roles at Mobile Information Systems and Chronos Systems where he spearheaded the development and implementation of Fleet Management systems.


Guest Blog by Tom Gable: In Crisis PR, Consider the Half-Life of a Tweet or Comment

04.21.2011How quickly to respond to negative blogs and comments? Gable PR had a recent experience with a client that announced progress with a controversial technology for drug discovery. We anticipated feedback and had assembled an extensive array of data, links and citations for outside validation. Unfortunately, we soon found ourselves in an imbroglio that went far beyond questions on the technology

The CEO, we soon learned, had personal and financial issues in a previous business almost two decades ago. The science story drew mostly positive coverage. A science blogger probed into the technology and a skeptic’s manifesto. Worse, a former girlfriend to the CEO soon added to the comments. She wrote under a pseudonym and blasted the CEO for a bad real estate deal, other business transactions that went sour and even previous jobs held by the wife (personal shopper at Nordstrom). Others popped in via Twitter.

The CFO of the company responded with facts and suggested that perhaps the personal attacks weren’t relevant and bordered on defamation, which generated more personal attacks!

Long story short: the company stopped responding and the commentary died a day later. Lesson learned: answer succinctly and factually to correct the record; don’t get caught up in continuing the negative dialogue and personal attacks, which seems to get progressively worse and more personal once the opposition figures out that the facts are against them.

Understand that the half life of a Tweet is two to five minutes, according to a study of an Audi program that used Twitter for branding, and hot blogging topics, particularly on obscure topics, flame out and die in a day or two.

The plan, then, is to set aside ego, which is often difficult, especially when the attacker and his or her motives are known. Stick to the facts, post and move on. You will be amazed how quickly the issue goes away (well, it never totally goes away, since the Internet is forever).

About the Blogger:
Tom Gable, CEO of Gable PR, San Diego, has been in the public relations business more than 30 years. A former financial journalist and Pulitzer Prize nominee, he has represented clients ranging from technology, internet and biotech startups to Fortune 100 companies. He blogs and tweets regularly about new PR techniques, crisis PR and the importance of no-hype, jargon-free, fact-based PR to building image and reputation. He also blogs about wine and is the contributing wine editor of San Diego Magazine.

Links for reference:

Website: http://www.gablepr.com
Blog: http://www.authenticprcounsel.com
Wine blog: http://sdwineguru.posterous.com/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tomgable
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/tomgable


Guest Blog by IES: Trends in HR Outsourcing for Small Business

04.19.2011A recent survey, conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit, found that senior executives around the world rated their HR departments as the worst performing of all their business functions. Being bogged down with administrative tasks, HR executives don’t have time to look at the big picture and work toward the goals of the company. In light of these findings many HR professionals have been prompted to outsource administrative tasks, such as payroll and benefits administration, in order to assume a more strategic role in driving employee performance and corporate profitability. We interviewed Harry Feinberg, Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Outsourcing Today LLC (the company that publishes HRO Today magazine, HRO Europe magazine and FAO Today magazine) to gain insight into the trends and future of HR outsourcing.

“HR administration is one of the easiest items for a company to outsource since the functions are transactional in nature and aren’t core to the company’s business goals,” says Feinberg. For years payroll has been the most common function outsourced, however, companies are starting to realize the advantages of outsourcing other functions such as 401(k) programs, stock options administration and health benefits. With many outsourcers offering automated systems to allow employees to modify their information and manage benefits, companies and employees alike are benefiting from the convenience. What’s more, HR outsourcing provides organizations with access to better expertise, customer service, lower costs and greater value. When freed from time-consuming administration, HR is better able to realize its full potential and deliver greater strategic value to the organization.

Research by the Yankee Group predicts that the domestic market for HR outsourcing will reach $42 billion by 2008. According to Feinberg, the market for HR outsourcing is growing at 25-30% each year. A main driver for growth is attributed to the convergence of finance, accounting and HR functions. “Through this convergence, organizations are starting to realize cost savings and increased efficiency, creating a market demand for greater integration of HR and financial data,” says Feinberg. “Moreover, many mid market companies have similar service delivery requirements and systems to run items such as payroll, benefits administration, accounts receivable and accounts payable, driving HR outsourcing providers to consider bundling their services to meet the market demands.” Feinberg also pointed out that many organizations recognize that HR administration is best handled by outside experts specializing in payroll and benefits administration outsourcing, as it is their core competency.

“The trend of outsourcing HR administration is initially started in larger companies, however, mid market and smaller companies have found outsourcing to be critical in helping them grow,” says Feinberg. More and more business leaders understand that it is imperative that they stick to their companies’ business strengths and outsource non-core functions. According to Feinberg, the most sophisticated companies outsource and the most sophisticated outsourcing providers outsource as well.

The market is rapidly changing and with that executives are going to need the flexibility to adapt. “If you decide to outsource then you should find a provider that keeps to a service level agreement, is a cultural fit with your organization and that properly benchmarks program success,” suggests Feinberg. Personally, Feinberg has been outsourcing for 20 years and couldn’t imagine running his business otherwise.


Guest Blog by David Oates: The Press Release is Dead! Long Live Twitter!

04.18.2011Ok, I may be overdramatizing this a bit, but I’m no longer a believer that the press release is the primary way most companies can generate good, positive PR. The reason is simple – no one’s reading them anymore!

Here’s why: press releases used to work well when PR firms or in-house marketing folks would blast them to a set list of newspaper and magazine reporters as well as the assignment desks of various television news outlets. But those opportunities are fewer and farther between than at any time in recent history.

Anyone who hasn’t been under a rock over the past year has seen the very visible demise of traditional news organizations. The once high-flying Tribune Company (owners of the L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, Superstation WGN and others) is still stuck in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, while other long-standing publications like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer are gone all together. Those that remain are struggling with a skeleton staff that are now holding down multiple roles and being pulled in so many directions that they have very little time to digest a 400-word announcement from yet another “leading provider of…[insert your industry here].”

Now that doesn’t mean that news outlets don’t want to hear about an organization’s recent achievements. Far from it – they need credible sources to help them with story ideas and developing topics. But companies need to announce such events in a much different way – online!

So before drafting another standard press release, try these three steps first:
• Website news posting – put your piece of relevant news on its own page within your Web site. This will service as foundation to drive journalists and other relevant parties to find out more about your organization and your latest accomplishments.

• Post your news on at least three social network systems – This may sound difficult at first, but trust me – it will take far less time and have far greater success once it’s set up. I’d recommend getting started by launching a Facebook and Twitter account in addition to your own blog. From there, link up with friends and business acquaintances as well as the reporters from media outlets that are using the same services (I guarantee that you’ll find some of them there!). Update your status/news on a regular basis and include a link to the news posting on your Web site. If done correctly, organizations will see much more activity than they ever did by just blasting the news out to media outlets.

• Get others to do the same – The more people who comment on your news through the same social network services, the more attention it gets, and the greater reach an organization will garner.

At its basic level, this is grass roots/word of mouth marketing – just in an online form. I’ve personally secured new clients through this tactic, and I have seen a significant increase in interest from reporters when I distribute announcements through social media platforms. I may still write the occasional press release for companies, but I’m spending far less time doing so, and figure the tactic will all but be dead in the very near future.

About the Blogger:
David Oates, APR, is the President of Stalwart Communications, (www.stalwartcom.com) a San Diego-based Pay-on-Performance marketing and public relations firm that charges its full fees only when its clients get press, awards and other marketing deliverables. He also launched the social media site, Pay-on-Performance (http://payonperformance.com), to engage business leaders in discussion on this revenue model. David can be reached at [email protected]


Guest Blog by Sarah Hardwick: 5 Strategies to Attract A’s

04.13.2011As an agency owner, you can attract your ideal “A” clients even in a tough economy with a little planning and creative visualization.  When times are tight, it can be tough to turn down opportunities that would bring immediate financial benefit, but might not be a good fit for your business in the long term. Filtering out these “B” and “C” clients will save you time and resources while producing more meaningful and profitable relationships in the future. Use your imagination and visualize the perfect client roster with the help of these five strategies.

Create an Ideal Client Profile

Create a list of ideal qualities for “A” clients and focus your business development efforts on retaining and attracting clients that fit those criteria. You can include factors like minimum annual deal size, target industry, etc., or characteristics such as “supportive, intelligent, grateful, easy to work with, realistic in what PR can achieve for their business.” Use the criteria as a checklist and be strict about qualifying all new prospects.

Rank Your Current Clients

To be successful in attracting “A” clients, you may need to make room for new opportunities by letting go of less profitable clients currently on your roster. First, rank your clients according to your ideal guidelines. You might be surprised at the results! Then, decide whether you want to create a growth plan or choose not to renew contracts when they expire.

Focus on Your Passions

Spend the bulk of your new business effort focusing on the unique niche(s) you are passionate about to develop client relationships that are both personally and professionally rewarding. Look for companies that align with your mission, vision and values who are working in areas that your team is excited about. Get creative and consider putting up a vision board with images, quotes, anything that inspires you on a daily basis.

Leverage Key Influencers

Tap into your network of key influencers to gain access to ideal clients, establish credibility and top of mind awareness. Ask your current “A” clients to be referral sources to other high quality prospects. Another tactic is to create an advisory board to strengthen relationships with your influencers and obtain advance notice of opportunities on the horizon.

Refresh Often

As your business evolves over time, you will need to continually refresh your ideal client profile to stay in line with shifts in your strategy and the competitive landscape.  Review your checklist on a quarterly basis and ensure your team knows what qualities are most important. Keep your eyes on the “A’s” and trust your instincts for success in achieving the perfect client mix.

About the Blogger Sarah Hardwick

Sarah Hardwick is founder of Zenzi Communications, a Solana Beach, CA based PR and social media firm dedicated to helping clients “Be Known.” Follow her at www.twitter.com/SarahZ, visit www.zenzi.com or www.Facebook.com/ZenziBEKnown


Guest Blog by CJ Westrick: The Biggest Risk to Your Company

04.08.2011Most small businesses owners have a fear of a variety of governmental agencies. Often, this fear is warranted because most of you do not really know, positively, what is expected of you by those agencies. That leaves you with the fear of the government “catching” you for having done something wrong or just not having done something.

On the other side of that is the small business owner who does not worry about the government because they believe they are “just too small” to be noticed. This group of owners is often right. The government usually spends their time and money chasing after the larger employers where the fines and penalties involved make it worth the effort.

In the end, it is this mix of fear and lack of concern that creates the problem. You really cannot wait until your company is bigger to worry about the government because if they know about you, they will target you. And so many of you make it way too easy for them to catch you.

So, where is the risk? How and why are you coming to the attention of a governmental agency? Take a look around your office. See those people working for and with you? They are your biggest risk; they are the ones holding big signs that say “look at this company.”

Don’t say it, I’ve heard it too many times… “but these people have become my friends, my family, and they would never hurt me.”

Over the past two or three years, I have heard many small companies talk about hiring people as independent contractors or paying people under the table. Yes, it saved you from paying payroll taxes and higher workers’ compensation costs. It could also end up costing you much more than you saved.

If the person you hired as an independent contractor did not come to you as a business, then they aren’t a business. That contract you both signed will not convince a governmental agency that you really have a sub-contractor relationship rather than an employer-employee relationship. This type of false independent contractor relationship usually falls apart in the unemployment office.

Once you no longer need this person, they will do what they’ve always done when they are out of work… apply for unemployment. But wait a minute! EDD doesn’t have a record of this person as your employee, does it? Alarms sound and an audit of your payroll records for the last four years is ordered. You will be looking at fines, penalties, possible overtime back pay, and, later on, IRS knocking at your door for unpaid taxes.

So, is it safer to just pay people under the table? No. I am amazed at how many employers don’t even realize that the concept of “under the table” means there is no paper trail. That means you are not paying the person with a company check and you are not writing it off as a company expense. Where’s the risk?

Again, that person is following past habits. When the money stops coming in, they file unemployment. They list their “official” pay and then mention that they also received some cash from you. After all, the more money they say they were making, the higher the unemployment check. This is also how a cash bonus backfires on you (as opposed to a bonus that is properly run through payroll).

While you might consider coaching this person on what to and not to do or say, you have no real control over them once they stop working with you. You really can’t be sure of whether or not they will “tip” the government about your illegal methods. And, yes, these are illegal methods.

Most of the time, these “non-employees” are not trying to harm you intentionally. However, they often harm you by not understanding the legalities of the situation. Even if they understood the harm they might cause, when it comes down to saving you money or making more money themselves, who do you think will be first in their mind?

About the Blogger:
C.J. Westrick, SPHR, owns a human resource consulting firm, HR Jungle (www.HRjungle.com), which specializes in working with businesses that do not need full-time HR assistance but want a high level of experience and knowledge.


Feedback

03.25.2010I recently stayed at the Country Inn & Suites in San Diego, CA.  I needed a place for a weekend and while I normally would grab a place like the Hilton at Torrey Pines or The Pearl in Point Loma, my family was going to be visiting and I needed a decently priced suite that would accommodate their visits to the hotel.  I had never stayed at the Country Inn & Suites but they had a “stay two nights, get one free” deal.  As I needed three nights, I booked the room.

The hotel itself was decent.  Nothing fancy or overdone.  But, I have to say that I was quite impressed with the level of service the hotel provided.  I required an early morning check-in (around 9am instead of 3pm).  I called to let them know and they assured me they would do their best to have a room ready as early as I needed it.  Sure enough, when I showed up that morning the room was waiting and ready.  Also, the room included breakfast for the guests.  As I had family there in the mornings, I didn’t think that I would have a chance to take advantage of this.  Upon mentioning this at the desk, the manager came out to give me his assurance that my whole visiting family was welcome to the free breakfast every morning of my stay – all eight of them!  The staff was always pleasant and greeted me with a smile and friendly “hello” in the halls.  They made my stay one of the most enjoyable I’ve had in San Diego.

But perhaps what impressed me the most with this hotel was the day after I had checked-out there was an email asking me to take a quick survey about my stay.  I had a free minute so I went for it.  It was quick and painless, but pretty thorough.  I sent it off and that was that.  Or so I thought.  A few hours later, I had an email from the manager of the hotel thanking me for the survey and apologizing for the few things I had marked it down on.  At the end of the email he gave me his direct line at the hotel and welcomed anymore feedback I would like to give.

I’m sure the email was automatically generated, but it made me – as a customer – feel that much more valued.  In the world of small business, making your customers feel valued is a great way to get them to see you as valuable.  Asking for and being open to honest feedback (no matter how good, no matter how bad) is a good start.  But if you really want them to go the extra mile, take some personal time for that feedback.  Thank them individually for their comments and assure them that you are trying to find ways to improve.

What’s more?  Actually do it.  After all, their the kind of people you are serving.  If they’re willing to tell you how to serve them better it will help you not only retain them as a customer, but it will help you get more customers like  them.  Getting customer feedback is critical to success, but it doesn’t help you or your customers to leave a pile of comments and surveys sitting in your inbox.  Read them and follow through.  It can make all the difference.


Six Ways to Grow Your Small Business- Fortune Magazine

03.23.2010This article from Fortune Magazine does a great job summarizing 6 “best practices” that thriving companies are executing. I especially like #5 that discusses thought leadership-

5. Write!

Flood the digital market space with blogs, white papers, YouTube videos, and Twitter messages that align with the phrase you own (check out The Shipping Bloke blog). Then enhance your authority by writing a book like Chris Krause’sAthletes Wanted. Published content is king in driving education-based marketing programs and in establishing you and your company as the authorities in your industry.

A to-the-point article on what all small businesses should be doing. Hope it helps!


Less Web Savvy Industry = Opportunity

03.18.2010As the Bop Design team meets with small business owners in various industries, we become aware of the dramatic differences in web sophistication. For instance, it’s much more competitive on the web if you’re a real estate agent compared to if you’re an executive sedan service owner. Industries like real estate will have plenty of websites that are effectively designed and easy to navigate. You will also see that they allocate much more money, time, and resources developing a web marketing strategy. For some industries like real estate, the web market is saturated and you must be very creative on how to stand out.

On the other hand if you’re the owner of an executive sedan service and you can scan your competition on the web, you will probably be underwhelmed. Much of your competition does not even have a website and the ones that do, most of them look like they were designed in 1997. As a business owner in a less web savvy industry, you have an opportunity to establish yourself on the web and have a “first mover advantage” on the competition.

I hear many business owners say “Well my competition is not doing that, why should I?” That’s exactly the reason why you should be doing that. So as a small business owner, you must start using the web to your advantage and make your website a lead generator. Type keywords into a search engine that your customers would type in. See what shows up and scan your competitors’ websites. How can your web presence be different and set your business apart?


Building Your Brand- Every Interaction

03.17.2010As small business owners interact with clients, strategic partners, vendors, etc., they must remember every interaction creates their brand. Some small business owners seem to be only concerned with their customer relationships. However, they must realize that when they do business with partners and vendors, they are also creating a lasting image.

For instance, some small business owners can be unconcerned about paying vendors on time. They think “vendors are here to serve me and I will pay when I want.” They forget that their vendors are usually small business owners like themselves and can be a possible referral source. If you treat vendors the same way you want to be treated, a possible strategic partnership can arise. They will observe your professionalism and want to be affiliated with you.

A small business owner must respect both people they are working for and people working for them. This may seem like common sense but I see many small business owners who lose sight of this. The small business community is huge and we are all in this together. Special care must be paid to all business interactions because this will strengthen your brand. If you run your business with honesty and integrity, other like minded businesses will want to be part of your professional network.


Tiger’s Return- Change in Brand Image

03.16.2010Tiger Woods has just announced that his return to the PGA tour will be for the Masters in early April. We all know that Tiger’s brand has taken a major hit over the past four months. Companies like Accenture and Gillette have dropped Tiger from their advertising campaigns. I’m sure he understands that his private mistakes take a toll on his brand image.

Woods has just hired Ari Fleischer, former Bush administration press secretary, to manage his PR campaign. I have little faith in Fleischer since his last major client was Mark McGwire during McGwire’s return to Major League Baseball. Fleischer’s strategy has proved to be disastrous. McGwire stated that he used steroids to rebound from injuries more quickly, not to hit more home runs. The public has not bought that explanation and it has not gotten the media to move on.

Before the scandals, Tiger Woods was able to get away with a lot. On the PGA tour, he was never known as a “fan friendly” golfer. He steered clear of signing autographs and kept his distance from the media. The public was okay with that behavior then, since they thought Tiger was special and needed to keep his focus as he attempted to break Nicklaus’ majors record. The fans were forgiving of Tiger’s elusiveness as he kept winning.

Looks like Tiger wanted to keep people away not because he was focused on winning, but because he had to manage “extracurricular” activities and he did not want anyone to know about it. Now the elusiveness that used to be an asset to Tiger’s brand is now going to be a liability. If Tiger and Fleischer manage his comeback correctly, he needs to be available, open, and human. He needs to change his brand image and become something he was not before.

The more available, open, and human Tiger is, the more sympathetic he will be to the public. The more sympathetic someone is, the more likeable. For instance, John Daly the pro golfer who has been upfront about his many addictions from gambling to drinking, is one of the most popular golfers on the tour and still has many endorsement deals.

Tiger can rehab his brand image by becoming something he was not before. This is his challenge and if he manages his brand effectively, he can emerge almost as strong as he was before.


What’s in a Name?

03.03.2010What’s in a name?

How about one-hundred million dollars?  If you’re Lindsay Lohan that’s what you think is in your name.  The news that the Hollywood star is suing E*Trade over their latest commercial has quickly spread.  From comments on blogs and news sources reporting on the case, there seem to be legitimate arguments favoring both sides represented in the case.  Reporting on the lawsuit this morning, the Wall Street Journal cited Lohan’s attorney as saying she has had several people who have stepped forward to help prove her case.  However, comments on the article posted online and accessible at:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704145904575112070739770554.html
seem to tell a different story.

I tend to agree with them.  When I watched the ad, Lindsay Lohan didn’t even come to mind – and I consult for Southern California based media companies.  Maybe I’m wrong, though.  Maybe E*Trade was alluding to and misusing the Lindsay Lohan brand name.  I’ve included a link to the YouTube clip.  I’ll let you watch and decide for yourself.

As you watch, keep this in the back of your head: E*Trade is a fairly formidable company.  They can afford to run the risk of being sued for something like this.  (That’s not to say they enjoy being sued or that it’s right for them to get sued – but they can afford it.)  Small businesses aren’t often so lucky.  If one ad is misinterpreted, that can be the end.  It only ever takes one lawsuit to put a small business under.

Have fun with your ads.  Take a lesson from E*Trade and come up with some fun concept that can communicate your message in an entertaining way.  Without a doubt, marketing is one of the most fun aspects of business and is likely the most creative one.  Just make sure that your risks are going to be worth your rewards.  You don’t want to become a no-name because an ad sounded like a good idea at the time.


Greed is Back

02.24.2010“Greed is good.” So said Gordon Gekko said in the 1987 hit film Wall Street.  Well, hang on, because this April, greed is back is Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

Some people might cringe when they read that – or if they’ve seen the preview.  I’ve already heard more than a few of my friends say, “Wall Street is too classic of a movie to try and make a sequel to.  Why ruin a good thing?”

Think about the last sequel you saw that was better than the original.  And I’m not just talking about movies and television spin-offs.  Has Hidden Valley’s Ranch with Bacon seen better sales than it’s Original Ranch?  What about Pepsi Blue – anyone remember that stuff?  I’m sure there are thousands and thousands of examples of products that just can’t perform at the level of their parent products.  But for, today, let’s focus on the entertainment industry and Wall Street 2.

The reason companies follow up with products is as simple as Gordon Gekko puts it: Greed is good.  So that might be a little cynical, but there’s a little bit of truth to that.  New products are introduced in the hopes of generating new revenues and new profit.  Where there’s a customer to serve, there should be a product.  Companies stay alive by continuing to innovate and introduce new products.  But why risk so much on something completely new when you can mitigate risk by introducing an incremental innovation?  Hence the bacon flavored ranch; hence Wall Street 2.  There are proven markets for these products and it makes sense to try and expand revenue flows by changing the product slightly.

Small businesses should do this too.  Since few companies are ever one-hit wonders, innovation is key to success.  And for small businesses that can’t afford to sink huge sums of profits into R&D, it can be very strategic to simply improve an existing product or service.  However, it can be detrimental to your brand to rely solely on this strategy (Pirates of the Caribbean 4 anyone?).  By trying to be everything to everyone, you dilute your brand and risk being nothing to nobody.  Like most things in business (and life), it’s about finding a good balance between not ruining the classic (remember why it’s called Coke Classic now?) and continuing to innovate and serve a market that’s profitable.  It’s making Wall Street 2 without ruining Wall Street.